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More on Strib Gatekeeping: Reader Steve Gigl, who has a blog of his own, mails in with this addition to my post below:
It's funny that my local paper, the Star Tribune, picked up their style book to defend themselves against an accusation, and then didn't actually address the paragraph in the “Reader Representative” column that I think really caused the problem. I don't think it was just the use of the phrase "void the term 'terrorist' in articles about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict because of the emotional and heated nature of that dispute.
This seemed to be what really set off the people that formed "MN against terrorism" and, to my eye, rightly so. It specifically singles out Israel and Palestine because someone might disagree that Hamas and those other groups were actually terrorists. "Don't mind those dead children and pregnant mothers! We're just fighting for our freedom over here!" The idea that there is some justification for murder-suicide bombings always makes my mind twist up into a little knot and blood start to spray out of my ears, but that's my own problem...

4/6/2002 02:43:35 PM

Mickey Kaus Secretly Married to Catherine Seipp -- Whoops! Not Really! The new must-read blog by "A Beam" is already fending off accusations of bad fact-checking.... UPDATE: Seipp mails in:
If I knew who [A Beam] was I could explain that Mickey is my ex-husband, I actually just got married to Andrew Sullivan, and we're planning to adopt...

4/6/2002 01:50:27 PM

Good Geitner Simmons Article on Weblogs: Featuring a couple of quotes from me, Glenn Reynolds and others. Geitner is a good editorial writer with the Omaha World-Herald, and a gentleman. The date on this story is April 1, but he actually wrote the thing months ago.

4/6/2002 01:05:19 PM

Hey, Check Out My New PayPal Bucket! Over on the left. This concludes a minor site redesign that nonetheless took way too much of my time this past week, most of it spent retrieving articles that no longer live at their original URLs. Here’s a tip for you free-lance writers who work a lot for online publications: save all your Internet clips as separate files, right away! Then, when the publication folds, merges, starts charging for archives or does a redesign, you can rename the files & post them directly on your own site. In fact, there’s a good argument for posting everything directly on your site, from the very beginning, but I’m too beat to make it right now.

4/5/2002 11:35:43 PM

Good New Times Profile on Richard Rodriguez: Solid long piece examining the career of one of California’s more interesting writers.

4/5/2002 10:44:27 PM

Another Early Web Star Annoyed by Blogs: John Dvorak, again. He’s a pretty funny and often shrewd writer, in case any of you didn’t know him from before. (Microcontent News)

4/5/2002 05:29:27 PM

The Thin Skin of Gatekeepers, Personified: On April 2, a group calling itself Minnesotans Against Terrorism took out a full-page ad in the Minneapolis Star-Tribune, protesting the Strib’s style policy of avoiding use of the word “terrorism.” The paper’s deputy editor of the editorial page, Jim Boyd, responded today with a column that, to me, perfectly illustrates the concept of Gatekeeper Defensiveness.

He sets up the attack by recalling some hostile response the paper received for a previous editorial criticizing Ariel Sharon:

Raging e-mails, intemperate telephone calls, demands for meetings, thinly veiled accusations of anti-Semitism flowed in a steady barrage. I'm not talking disagreement, which is a given in the business we're in; I'm talking outright attacks on our integrity, our intelligence, our professionalism. It's wearing, and that, it seems to me, is its goal: To intimidate into submission -- or at least into submissive silence.
Italics mine. Good God, man, hast thou no vocational epidermis? You are the dominant local newspaper. You have an outsized influence over your community. People are going to criticize, raise their voices, and even (heaven forbid) act mean. Deal with it.

Boyd then goes on to point out that the “terrorist” entry in question is “one of several thousand in a massive stylebook,” compares the Strib’s usage of the word to that of the New York Times (always a favored tactic for those defending their own publication’s controversial policies), and concludes: “I think this argument over ‘terrorist’ is useless.” Then he gets nasty:

So what this is about is a small, core group of people who are trying to beat the Star Tribune into accepting that the term “terrorist” must be used as it prescribes rather than as virtually the entire mainstream American press uses it.

Many of Minnesota's most prominent politicians, Democrat and Republican, signed the Tuesday ad. They appear not to have had a clue about what they were doing, which was allowing themselves to be used in this blatant bullying effort. Not one of them -- not one -- called the Star Tribune to talk with those who make newspaper policy -- Managing Editor Pam Fine and Executive Editor Tim McGuire -- about the origins of the style on "terrorist," the reasons for it or whether the characterizations of it in the ad were accurate. Clearly, none of them had compared Star Tribune stories on terrorism to the stories in other major American newspapers. Even a cursory comparison would have shown the ad to be the intemperate and incorrect namecalling exercise it was. The politicians were craven, every one of them.

Not craven in the least were the folks of the Star Tribune newsroom -- including quite a number of Jewish faith. I applaud their courage and their journalistic integrity in refusing to knuckle under on this issue.

Boyd gives a bad name to newspapers that have faced real bullying, from truly “craven” politicians. When faced with a strong local reaction, he closes ranks around his own, does a lot of “ya but look at the other guys!” and portrays his newspaper as somehow being under siege from people who don’t have the manners to respond in the method of his choosing (calling top editors to discuss “the origins of the style”). One hesitates to gang up on a guy with the good taste to publish James Lileks ... but let's just contrast this reaction with a 4 a.m. conversation I once had with punk-rock blogger Dr. Frank, who challenges the majority beliefs of his built-in fanbase every time he starts typing. “How do you deal with the angry criticism?” someone asked. Frank, who is a very unassuming looking chap, suddenly flashed an evil grin. “I love it,” he said (as best as my memory can recall). “That’s my favorite thing.”

4/5/2002 05:12:11 PM

Very Good Jonah Goldberg Column, on Suicide Bombers and ‘Hopelessness’:

4/5/2002 04:34:52 PM

Thank You’s: Ken Layne, who has long suffered through my technological incompetence, calmly restored my pay bucket just now, after I inexplicably removed it from the blue bar to the left during a long-overdue links overhaul there. Between that act, Jeff Jarvis’ generous thank-you note from the other day, and the process of adding some links on this page, I have been reminded to count my lucky stars, and thank everyone who has helped out this site. Ben Sullivan, who has had to deal with bum links here to his various sites, was the guy who mostly set up this page in the first place (don’t think for a second that I would be clever enough to handle the notoriously complicated Blogger technology…). He also, along with Joel Brand, has spearheaded the laborious effort to move LA Examiner, and soon the rest of our sites, to Moveable Type. Os Tyler, of course, has been hosting the lot of us, and putting up with my inane badgering for several years now. Very soon, I will beseech all you bloggers out there to switch to his service, and you will be glad that I did.

Now that I’m getting all weepy, let me thank foremostly all you weirdos who find this site worth visiting now and then, and especially those of you who link to it. It’s a strange and wonderful thing to have 3,000 different humans come see what you had to write on a given day, then send you a bunch of smart e-mail reactions with mysterious new facts. I’m woefully behind on answering, and it took far too long to include just the handful of links I’ve now finally put in … so thanks for being patient. Any of you who haven’t started a blog yet – what’s keeping you? There’s really nothing like it. OK, that’s enough sentimentality for the week….

4/5/2002 04:21:43 PM

Free the Booze! Speaking of Reason, here’s a good Jacob Sullum column about the boggling restrictions on ordering wine via the Internet. For more on such things (and some pretty good cartoons), check out FreeTheGrapes.com.

4/5/2002 04:02:17 PM

Correction and Apology: I’ve got a Ralph Nader book review in the latest print edition of Reason, which is a cracking good issue I encourage all of you to go out and buy. To my deep regret and bewildered shame, I misstated the title of the damned book: It’s Crash!ng the Party, not Crash!ng the Gates. And it was my fault, not Reason’s. Sorry for messing up, and I hope you read the story & issue anyway.

4/5/2002 03:57:10 PM

Mandela Clarification: My post below probably gave off the impression that I have any real idea about the nature of Nelson Mandela’s dissent, his embrace (or not) of either terrorism or communism … well, I don’t. I based the comment on the simplistic formula of: Guy showed a lot of class after being released from jail, and did not live down to the expectations some had for him, so therefore we can conclude that he made better choices than Yasser Arafat while being oppressed by an evil government. That’s probably true enough, but I don’t know anything more, and am less than qualified to argue with all you smart people who do.

4/5/2002 01:24:50 PM

Go Read Virginia Postrel’s Post Entitled ‘Blog Bull’: It’s a bullshit-detector on Norah Vincent’s latest blog-praising column, with plenty of research, canny observations and smart writing.

4/5/2002 11:15:55 AM

Alterman Responds to Charges of Paranoid Gatekeeping: Since I accused the guy of carrying out an elitist smear, go check out his letter to Glenn Reynolds about his attitudes toward bloggers.

Speaking of which, every time I hear a coin rattle in the tip-jar, I now immediately think to myself, “Alex Beam, you have no idea what you’re missing.” Really, it’s a level of gratification for a writer that knows no equivalent, except for maybe watching people buy your book. Which reminds me of what I should be doing rather than typing more about my bathroom habits here….

4/5/2002 11:10:18 AM

David Artemiw, on Giving Responsibility to Palestinians: Written a few days back:
The failure to hold the Palestinians to account for their actions is disturbing for more than just implying that liberals have no interest in the well being of Israel. It's disturbing for what it says about Palestinians. The message is that they can't be held responsible for their actions because they don't know any better. And because they don't know better one can't expect better from them, let alone ask for it. It says that Palestine is incapable of the kind of behaviour demanded of Israel. Israel should restrain itself because it ought to know better, just like mothers say to the older child fighting with the younger child no matter what the quarrel or how it began. "Don't fight with your younger brother," they say. "You ought to know better." That kind of attitude is okay when dealing with children but not when dealing with nations or aspiring nations. It's demeaning, patronizing and racist.

4/4/2002 11:23:38 PM

Here’s That List of Baseball Player Murder Victims You Were Waiting for:

4/4/2002 05:30:04 PM

How Sympathy Can Become Apologia, in Two Easy Steps: Astonishing letter in the L.A. Times today, from a Mike Strong, in Corona Del Mar:
How ironic that you print a rather thoughtful article about the Middle East by Robert Scheer below one written by [former Israeli Prime Minister] Benjamin Netanyahu (Commentary, April 2). Remember, it was Netanyahu's aggressive expansion of the West Bank settlements that contributed to the problem today. Maybe your readers are fooled into thinking that Israeli tanks ravaging West Bank cities is the same as U.S. troops searching for Bin Laden's men in Afghanistan's mountains; however, the rest of the world is not. They are fortunate enough to have an objective press.

The day is coming sadly closer when we will witness more attacks on Jews and Jewish synagogues outside the U.S. (April 2). These attacks will be indefensible but will simply represent the frustration that the rest of the world feels in our arbitrary designation of the terms "terrorist" or "axis of evil."

Hyperlinks and italics mine. This sentiment comes up a lot, especially from some of my French readers. It exposes a fundamental difference in opinion, and (to my view) a fundamental flaw in the thinking of people who say such things. What’s that flaw? Let’s revisit Salman Rushdie, from Oct. 2, 2001:
To excuse such an atrocity by blaming U.S. government policies is to deny the basic idea of all morality: that individuals are responsible for their actions.
That individuals are responsible for their actions. Here’s a variant on that theme, e-mailed to me soon after Sept. 11 by a friend who lived in Prague for a couple of years right out of a very liberal college, and learned a valuable lesson there about the ability to criticize people of other cultures:
“To excuse someone's really bad behavior in a spirit of who-am-I cultural tolerance is a form of condescension. You can't respect someone without implicitly demanding that they live up to a few basic rules of human decency. And when they don't, you tell them, out of respect. And if they're beyond hope, you don't do it out of respect for their humanity, but for all Humanity.”
These principles, I believe, apply to all suicide bombers, SLA freaks, anti-abortion terrorists, Americans who deliberately attacked a suspected Arab after Sept. 11, that crazy Jewish dude in L.A. who tried to blow up some Muslims, French Arabs who beat up Jews and torch synagogues, and so on. There are universal truths, and moralities, that must rise above all contextualization if we are going to continue improving as a planet. One of those is, you don’t deliberately set out to murder or maim non-combatant civilians, nor destroy their places of worship, period. As I wrote, in the first of several columns that got rejected after Sept. 11:
If we, as individuals, cease coming up with excuses and support for the Hezbollah, or the Irish Republican Army, or some wacked-out Montana militia, we will have gone a long way toward draining the intellectual swamp that nourishes terrorists.
And that means, when an ethnic-Arab European deliberately attacks a Jew or a Jew’s place of worship, you firstly, foremostly, and flatly say a variant on the following: Wow, that’s fucked up and wrong, and we need to punish that jerk, show solidarity with the victim (and others who share the victim’s offending racial/religious characteristics), and prevent that from happening again. Period. You do not, in this case, try to explain the execrable crime in the context of U.S. support for Israel. By doing that, you are eroding the perpetrator’s responsibility, and adding legitimacy to his wholly illegitimate expression. Not to mention, you are exhibiting some serious omniscience … who’s to say that the kid isn’t just pissed off from living in a trashy & violent suburb and being discriminated against by the local majority? Let’s go to the mailbag:
The source of this violence in France is deep resentment towards Israel in the young arab communities. Of course, no one can condone such behavior, but all the Grand Mufti was saying was that without something (Western intervention) being done, it would make it harder for him to calm the youth gangs. This was no irresponsible apologia, this was merely stating the facts.

One could set a perspective in reading the Seattle Times article, March 11 : “Incidents of violence and/or discrimination against Arab Americans or Muslim communities, as reported by Washington, D.C.'s Arab-American Anti-Discrimination Committee: More than 600. Of those, number resulting in death: 11.”

Note: The omniscience about “the source of violence.” Also, the interesting notion that the “something” to be done to solve a string of French crimes is not French crime-fighting, but rather Western intervention in a conflict on another continent. And then, the classic, “ya, but” formulation. Here’s another similar formulation of the “ya, but,” from a reader back in the fall who was responding to the following harsh words I had for the Palestinians who cheered the Sept. 11 massacre:
I think it points directly at a tangible defect in that society and culture. It is not racist or colonialist or nationalist to say so.
His response:
I heard on radio that there is *many* threats against Mussulmans in USA, what do you say about that ? Is it a tangible defect in YOUR society and culture or it's just the silliness of some people ?
My answer was: a violent attack against a human on the basis of his/her nationality, ethnicity or religion is worse than cheering for murder. Sticks and stones break bones, not words. But here’s the difference – most decent people, especially those living in decent democracies, agree, and will condemn that kind of violence on its face.

I generally dislike the rhetorical game of, “Imagine if (some terrible thing) was (done or said) by this group, instead of that!” … because there’s no logical end to that argument, besides becoming a crank. Still, one can’t help but notice that many of the people who express more sympathy for the Palestinians than the Israelis, not only deny the Palestinians’ humanity by absolving them of responsibility, but they use a wholly different standard when assigning responsibility to Israel or the United States. The American media is raked over the coals, every day, yet the Arab-world media, with its Nazi-level lies, smears, fantasies and distortions, does not receive the same scrutiny. If a U.S. weapon is used to kill a Palestinian (or any other human deemed to be oppressed), the U.S. has blood on its hands; yet when Yasser Arafat deliberately orders suicide bombers to go blow up a pizzeria, “that just shows how desperate they’ve become under U.S. oppression.”

I’ll repeat some old Vaclav Havel writing I first highlighted back on Sept. 23:

How much trust or even admiration for the Western peace movement can we expect from a simple yet sensitive citizen of east-central Europe when he has noticed that this movement has never, at any of its congresses or at demonstrations involving hundreds of thousands of participants, got around to protest the fact that one important European country attacked a small neutral neighbour five years ago, and since that time has been conducting on its territory a war of extermination which has already claimed a million dead and three million refugees? Seriously, what are we to think of a peace movement, a European peace movement, which is virtually unaware of the only war being conducted today by a European state? As for the argument that the victims of aggression and their defenders enjoy the sympathies of Western establishments and so are not worthy of support from the left, its incredible ideological opportunism can provoke only one reaction – total disgust and a sense of limitless hopelessness.
He was, incidentally, talking about Afghanistan.

Let’s stick with Havel for a moment. There are many people who have concluded that the grisly culture of suicide bombings and hate simply proves the brutality of the Israeli occupation (and the putative U.S. support for that occupation). I’m speaking here, for the record, as someone who is appalled by the concept of Israeli settlements in the West Bank and Gaza. OK – so, according to this logic, the Palestinians have “no other choice.” Here’s my question: So then, why didn’t we expect Havel to pick up a gun? Why didn’t Nelson Mandela negotiate using terrorist bombs, and spend his first months after being released from jail waging some retributive kick-ass on the white man? Are the Palestinians the most oppressed people in the world? If not, can we expect that every group more oppressed than the Palestinians has “no other choice” than to strap nail-bombs around teenage girls and send them to the shopping mall?

The point is, they do have other choices, and instead, they have chosen a deliberate policy of hatred, lies, and murder of non-combatants. Acknowledging that they have other choices, and condemning the bad choices that they have made, is the first step in treating Palestinians as humans. What about everything bad the U.S. or Israel have ever done? Bring it on! Let’s talk about it. We like to argue about such things, here, because it usually leads to improvements in debate, policy and public morality. And yes, no discussion of the Middle East crisis is complete without a good frank look at the missteps and even crimes by Washington and Tel Aviv.

But you know what? We don’t try to contextualize the hate-crime shooting of a Sikh. It’s sick and wrong, is called as such by our elected leaders and the press, and the perpetrators are arrested and thrown in jail. We don’t blame other countries when one of our own sets fire to a local church. Do you want to do something nice for the Palestinians? Then treat them as human beings, who – yes! – have lived in abysmal and tragic conditions, suffering from the whims of every neighboring country, and violated (in my view) by Israeli settlements; but who also are grown-up enough to be responsible for their own choices. And their choices, since Sept. 11 and before, have been outrageous and wrong.

4/4/2002 02:13:12 PM

The French Media Is Dissing the Conspiracy-Nut Book, Too: Emmanuelle has the evidence.

4/3/2002 03:51:39 PM

Great Henry Copeland Column About Blogging: Go read the whole thing.

4/3/2002 02:14:02 PM

The Snopes Debunking of the Phantom Pentagon Plane Story: Thanks to those who mailed in the link.

4/3/2002 01:52:54 PM

Moving Israel to Baja: Don’t let this funny and oddly persuasive Layne column on FoxNews get lost in the shuffle. Speaking of which, here’s the rock analogy you were looking for: I’m Keith Richards, and he’s … Brian Jones! Hahahahaha!

4/3/2002 01:52:20 PM

Emmanuelle Nominated for two Francophone Blog Awards! And you can go vote, to help her win! Go over to http://blog.binnes.com, a site run by some wacky Canadians, and vote for Emmanuelle’s “Naughty Bytes” (also spelled “Bites”) under the categories for “Meilleur Blog” (Best Blog), and “Meilleur Blog Europeen.” Vote early and often, and make a smart girl happy!

4/3/2002 01:51:37 PM

Don’t Miss the Lileks Response! A quick sample, though you know to go read the whole thing:
This one just refuted itself; it was like one of those biodegradable camping crap-bags that collects the offal AND returns it to nature. […]

Whatever compelled this fellow to stomp up and down the block kicking over lemonade stands is anyone’s guess. But we’re all the better for it! The Boston Globe has spoken, and Andrew Sullivan will think twice next time he wants to write about a movie he saw.
He also posts his entire e-mail response to Beam; which, like Virginia Postrel’s, is far more interesting than the column itself. And, in pure Beam-provoking tradition, muchos gracias to both of them for their recent kind words. To echo VP, there were many fine writers I wasn't really aware of before Sept. 11, and the dreaded warblog explosion. Lileks and Postrel are two of the more notable examples (though my wife's been a longtime fan of The Dynamist)

4/3/2002 12:09:57 AM

My Dead Neighbor, and Other Pentagon Illusions: Have spent the day down at the family house in Long Beach, hanging out with my grandmother, and seeing a long-lost friend from the teen days. We spent most of the time catching up on mutual acquaintances – he and a small cluster have bought houses nearby, me and a smaller cluster are up in East Hollywood. “I never thought I’d be the guy who lived near where he grew up,” he said, shrugging. “I tried living other places – Boston, up north – and I just like it here.”

“Dude, I love it here, and I was the first person to tell you I’d never live in Southern California again,” I said.

“I know,” he shot back. “You wrote about it.”

There is a wince-inducing memory that keeps a wedge between me and the Long Beach gang. In 1993, I was “interviewed” by a prominent L.A. Times columnist who was in Prague on vacation. He needed to fill his “voices of L.A.” installment – one of those post-Rodney King community-outreach touchy-feely features that died out after a year or two. The columns were presented as oral first-person; he sat at a computer and typed, very slowly, while asking me questions about the L.A. riots, the jock culture of my neighborhood, the recent Spur Posse scandal at my high school, and the recession, which was hitting Southern California particularly hard. I played along, correcting some of his read-back “transcriptions,” letting others go, and dreaming of the first delicious beer of the afternoon. Days or weeks later, the Times called up requesting a photograph. I had a feeling that I was going to come off sounding like a sanctimonious groovy-world-traveler lecturing the dullards back home about how bad their lives were, so I decided, as some kind of “joke,” to dress up in a dark navy blazer over a black turtleneck, with a religious pendant dangling on a necklace, and a serious scowl to go with my Cobain goatee and shoulder-length blond hair. Bad move.

The headline was, if memory serves, “There Are a Lot of Angry People in L.A.” More than a few friends saw that full-page story and photo, pinned it up on their fridge, and never talked to me again. There are others who would probably punch me in the teeth if they did, and I don’t blame them. It hardly matters that those words, presented as my own & without ellipses, represented, at best, a creative interpretation of every 10th sentence or so that I said during an interview that wasn’t taped, nor can any explanation of my misfired attempt at a nihilistic photo-joke ever replace the impression of me, looking like a supreme jackass, calling my old pals a bunch of repressed rednecks. In the end, the sentiments and photograph were true enough at the time, and I could have prevented the whole fiasco in the first place by shutting my damned mouth.

Anyways, today I changed the subject immediately, as I always do, and explained how I was very glad to have been in the country on Sept. 11, instead of outside, as I was for the riots, the Northridge Quake, O.J., etc. And about how spending nearly a month in Europe over Christmas, with both Europeans and Americans, left me feeling pretty cold and occasionally angry, in a brand new way. How certain things and attitudes to me, now, are just no longer funny.

“Chris Newton,” he said.

“Huh?”

“Chris Newton. The Newtons, live just around the corner here. Sister was a homecoming queen or something; babe. Went to Lakewood. You know, the Newtons.”

“Sure,” I said. “Madrigals, right?” The Madrigals, also known as the Silver Lute Singers (SLS), are a wonderful tradition at Lakewood High School. It’s just a choir, a bunch of music/drama geeks who wear big red gowns and go all around town singing stuff and doing a special beep-beep BEEEEP honk when driving by each other’s houses (I use the same honk, to this day, when driving by Heather Havrilesky’s apartment). My old friend and I both have a gaggle of older siblings, some of whom were in the Madrigals, just like the Netwon kids, and they all knew each other. Chris was my brother Larry’s age, Ann was my brother Joe’s age, Steve was my age -- we played on the same Little League team, coached by my Dad. I could throw a baseball right now from the front porch and hit the Newtons’ back window. Chances are, I probably did.

“Chris was on Flight 77. Crashed into the Pentagon."

*

Christopher Newton was 12 days away from his 39th birthday when his American Airlines flight from Washington, D.C. to Los Angeles was hijacked by Islamic maniacs and flown deliberately into the Pentagon, in order to murder as many civilians as possible in the name of Allah. He was the CEO of an employee-benefits company called Work/Life Benefits, which he was preparing to move from nearby Cypress to Virginia. He’d already moved houses, from Anaheim Hills to either Arlington or Ashburn, Virginia, depending on the source. He was flying back out one last time to retrieve the family dog, a yellow Labrador. Here’s how the Orange County Register eulogized him:

A month before he died Sept. 11, Christopher Newton had finally made his biggest dream come true.

Newton, CEO of Cypress-based Work/Life Benefits, had just moved across the country into a brick home at a Virginia country club where he could play golf any time. It was his fancy to have a golf course to call home so he could play any time with family and good friends. His son Michael, 11, sometimes served as caddy.

He played the course just once before the jetliner on which he was a passenger was hijacked and crashed into the Pentagon.

Like a lot of people from our neighborhood, Chris took his sports – and his community sports – quite seriously. According to the press reports
Church members said Newton was a devoted family man, Little League coach and church Cub Scout leader. He was an avid golfer and fitness buff, who cut an impressive figure at 6-foot-1. He often wore snappy, color-coordinated outfits.
And from the OC register:
He was addicted to golf, researched words for Scrabble and coached Little League.

"I have so many memories filled with support, happiness, occasional wrestling matches and, above all, admiration," said Newton's brother Stephen, 33.

"Chris taught me to be patient and hopeful and to always play by the rules."

Newton made Eagle Scout at 13, graduated from Lakewood High School and Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, got married and started a family before earning an MBA at the University of California, Los Angeles, in 1998.

Brother Steve, as I remember him, was a smart, slightly shy and very nice pale-blond kid with a long neck and big teeth. Was never terrific at the sports, except for maybe soccer (which I didn’t play), but always put up a good fight and was clearly destined for interesting things after high school. Chris was more the all-American square-jaw type. But go read that quote again, slowly. And weep: "Chris taught me to be patient and hopeful and to always play by the rules."

Newton’s employees gave similar-sounding tributes. From The New York Times:

"Chris was so understanding," said Lauretta Van Landingham, Mr. Newton's secretary. "I just listened to a voice-mail message that I saved from him, saying that he wanted me to understand that in the whole scheme of things, what we do here is not as important as our families."
He could also write a bit. Here you can find a brief obit, and a few of Netwon’s columns for the International Personnel Management Association.

Here, too, is the moving sermon given at Chris’ church on Sept. 13, about “the reality of evil.” A sample:

Throughout this large gathering this night, perhaps there are not simply trickles of anger, but tides of rage. The earth has moved. The nation has been rocked. Each of us is shaken. Families have been scarred forever, and each of us is wounded. In this parish we have been dealt the direct hit of a personal grief, and we are all now intimately involved. Such is the reality of evil!

But it shall not prevail, this evil. It will not overwhelm us in a threatening floodtide of anger, revenge and hatred. It cannot, ultimately, have any dominion over us. And it will not destroy us! Why? Because we in this place are Easter People. […]

We believe that life is stronger than death, love is mightier than hatred, forgiveness will root out revenge, and unity will overcome estrangement. We in this place are Easter people. We know who we are. We know whose we are. We are daring people of faith.

My neighborhood has taken its lumps over the years, one or two from me, but it just strikes me, this decency of reaction. Joan Didion, in her famous New Yorker piece about the Spur Posse and Lakewood Village (the name of our little panhandle of Long Beach), made much about our corny, patriotic sports-mad aerospace-built culture and its excesses, and it was a good article, but it’s all right to acknowledge the good side, too. Christopher Newton personified that good side, before being slaughtered by a suicide bomber.

*

A last brief note. There are news reports, that I won’t link to or read, about how the number-one book in France claims that Flight 77 never crashed into the Pentagon. That it was all, somehow, made up. For a proper response to that astoundingly hateful theory, click here. I would only add this, to the authors and their readers: Fuck you.

4/2/2002 11:41:02 PM

Clarification: Some people, especially those having the names “Ken” or “Layne,” may have confused my last post with an attack on blog-world responses to Alex Beam’s dreadful column. In fact, the blog-world responses to Alex Beam’s dreadful column have been some of the most enjoyable and elucidating posts I’ve read in a while, and I hope someone collects them all in one place, to be distributed in Journalism Schools, and the offices of those curious creatures called “ombudsmen.” The point of my “friendly note of caution” was exactly that, directed to those less decorated than battle-scarred veterans of the book-tour circuit, and the bit at the end was intended to be a humorous slap at gatekeepers more than a looming worry about being sucked into the wrong Borg. I apologize for any confusion, and keep those cheap insults coming!

4/2/2002 11:40:06 PM

Charles Burlingame Correction: A reader sends this note about my post on Opening Day:
Charles Burlingame was the captain of American Airlines Flight 77 not United.

Charles and his wife were based in Virginia, that's why his wife did not make the trip west after Charles could not get the Angels tickets for the 12th.

Sorry for the cock-up, and thanks for the extra info.

4/2/2002 09:27:56 PM

A Friendly Note of Caution: Any human ecosystem that is suddenly subject to the glare of media attention -- praise, derision, whatever -- is inevitably changed and distorted by the process. It's hard to see clearly with the lights shining on your face, no matter if you are a trained cynic, journalist, anti-fluffitarian or lead singer. The easiest trap is to confuse attention with actual self-importance -- if they're all looking at me, I must be special, right? Call it the David Talbot Syndrome. Can't tell you how many times I made a somber, pretentious ass of myself back in Prague, when the next round of A-list teevee journalists (Lesley Stahl, Judd Rose) would come to town to do the Young Americans in Prague story. Remember: if you lose your sense of humor, if your skin becomes thin, if you develop an exalted and undeserved sense of personal status ... then you have let the gatekeepers win. By becoming one of them.

4/2/2002 03:26:34 PM

Alex Who?

4/2/2002 10:31:20 AM

Go Read James Lileks, Right Now: It’s about newspapers, weblogs, fleeing J-school before it’s too late, rude e-mails from Boston Globe columnist Alex Beam, the “all-important local angle,” and most of all, vital web writers vs. staid newspaper op-ed sections. Lileks, who works happily for a good & honorable newspaper, nevertheless sketches out his idealized publication:
Layne handles the city beat, Welch has the roving-reporter job, Tom Tomorrow runs the comic section (which carries Treacher, of course). MediaMinded runs the slots - that's the type of editor I want as the last line of defense. InstantMan runs the edit page - and you can forget about your Ivins and Wills and Friedmans and Teepens on the edit page - it’s all Blair, VodkaP, C. Johnson, Aspara, Farber, Galt, and a dozen other worthies, with Justin “I am smoking in such a provocative fashion” Raimondo tossed in for balance and comic relief.

Who wouldn’t buy that paper? Who wouldn’t want to read it? Who wouldn’t climb over their mother to be in it?

We’ll build it someday, James, and sooner than you think.

4/1/2002 10:34:35 PM

Postrel: ‘No, it’s Worse’: Virginia clarifies my analogy below about the Marseille Mufti and ethnic Arabs blowing up French synagogues:
"It’s as if some ethnic Tibetans bombed the Chinese consulate in L.A., and the local Lama blamed it on Colin Powell."
A synagogue isn't a representative of the Israeli government. It's a place where French Jews gather for worship.

This is more like bombing a Chinese cultural center with no connection to the PRC or blowing up one of those Chinese restaurants where Chinese families celebrate the New Year.

Exactly. I was never very good with the analogies. Kinda like a clubfoot with three thumbs.

4/1/2002 10:10:43 PM

Apologia for Anti-Jewish Terror in France: UPI interviewed Grand Mufti Soheib Bencheikh of Marseille, the depressed port/immigration town where a synagogue was torched Sunday:
So long as the violence in the Middle East continued, [Bencheikh] said, ethnic-Arab youths in France would likely continue their campaign of attacks.

"It's possible for the attacks to continue," said Bencheikh, who called for Western intervention in the Middle East to staunch the bloodshed, "which makes our job all the more difficult" in calming incensed Muslim youth in France.

Let’s get this straight. Ethnic Arabs, who live in France, not Palestine, are being somehow pushed to commit violence against Jews in France, not Palestine, because of a lack of “Western intervention” in the Middle East, not France. This is irresponsible apologia, nothing less. It’s as if some ethnic Tibetans bombed the Chinese consulate in L.A., and the local Lama blamed it on Colin Powell. Or if, during the 1990s, the thousands of Yugoslav refugees living in Prague and Budapest assaulted each other along ethnic lines, and then blamed it all on Germany (they didn’t). If an ethnic Arab Frenchman – who is just as likely as not to be a non-Palestinian ethnic Arab Frenchmen – is at all justified for burning down a synagogue in Marseille, then aren’t I, as an American citizen who is the declared target of a terrorist war, entitled to a little local whup-ass on the first Wahabbist I see?

Reminds me of Sept. 18 or so, when I was getting the K-car towed to do $500 worth of repairs, just a few weeks before it was destroyed by fire on Sunset Blvd. On the way to the Arab-owned auto-body shop, I rode shotgun in the tow-truck and chatted with the Guatemalan-immigrant driver about Sept. 11. “But some people,” I said, “think that maybe we had it coming, because of our bad foreign policies. I mean, you’re Guatemalan, right? Don’t Guatemalans have a right to be pissed off at Americans?”

“No no no no!” he said. “If we don’t like Americans, we shouldn’t come here. It is terrible, what these people did, and they need to pay for it.” His wife is also a Guatemalan immigrant, and they’re both still struggling to clear all the INS hurdles. “But my daughter,” he said with a big grin, “was born here, so she’s an American.” But surely, his divided loyalty must manifest somehow, right? Yep – when Guatemala plays the U.S. in soccer, he pulls for the mother country. But if he drives to the game (which he has), his car will have an American flag sticker.

4/1/2002 03:47:39 PM

Opening Day Wish List: Great column from ESPN.com’s Eric Neel. Among things he hopes happens in 2002:
I'm driving west on the high plains in Wyoming and my car radio -- which has a broken antenna, by the way -- gets hit by a bolt of lightening and it's one of those cosmic tumblers sort of moments, and suddenly I'm getting Vin Scully saying, "Hi again, everybody, it's a beautiful night for a ballgame -- pull up a chair." I stop the car on the side of the road and cry. […]

Quietly at first, but later in groups and with zeal, people begin talking to each other about their enduring respect for and fascination with quality pinch hitters. In July, they hold their first annual convention and vote to call themselves the Dave Hansen Society. […]

Every time a ballpark DJ is tempted to play John Fogerty's "Center Field," he plays Steve Earle's "Some Dreams" from "The Rookie" soundtrack instead. […]

Astros owners decide against selling naming rights to the former Enron Field and decide instead to name the park after an ideal. Truth Field sells out every night and the club makes every penny of the blown Enron deal back on small donations at the gate from people who think Truth's a pretty good thing and are happy for the chance to help keep a corporate logo off the side of the building. […]

Somebody writes a hip-hop baseball song -- hopefully Snoop.

You know what we did for Eric’s bachelor party? Went to a minor league baseball game. In Iowa.

4/1/2002 03:44:59 PM

Happy Birthday, Team Bleah! But is it/was it on April Fool’s? You can never tell with that Pirate Time Zone.

4/1/2002 11:31:11 AM

An Easter Message From Rev. Tony: Discussing Jesus and his brothers, Angus Young and his bandmates, and more. Catch it while it’s still up.

4/1/2002 10:51:39 AM

Opening Day: I remember vividly going to an Angels game with my Dad about 11 years ago, in April 1991. I was visiting from Prague to watch a friend get married, and the Gulf War had just ended. It was the only baseball game of the thousands I’ve either attended, played in or coached when I didn’t feel comfortable being there.

Looking back, I’m sure I was exaggerating. It was the first time I’d experienced the expat’s shock of re-entry, and I probably interpreted some dirty Orange County looks at my hippy-hair and various earrings much more personally than was warranted. Still, to see a man with a 12-year-old daughter look at me, shake his head bitterly, and snarl “get a haircut!” was a bit rough. Then the pre-game introductions were filled with military colors, jumbo-tron car commercials urging us to "Rediscover America," and even promos that compared the Angels’ pitchers to various warplanes. At the time, I was ambivalent about the Gulf War, but I was certain that the Saddam-as-Hitler frenzy whipped up on the homefront was cynical, totally ignoring the U.S.’ previous support for the Iraqi dictator (not to mention April Glaspie’s vague diplomacy), and was symptomatic of Americans’ shallow grasp on foreign policy. As such, the display of patriotic war-whooping made me feel as alienated as I’ve ever remembered – uncomfortable at a baseball game? Would I ever feel like a normal American again?

Tonight, I was back at Anaheim Stadium with my Dad, watching the very first game of the 2002 baseball season. Traffic screwed me up, so we missed the first half-hour or so of pre-game festivities, but once inside we watched as some kids held a 300-foot flag in the outfield, a series of American heroes were honored (including Derek Parra, the great little speed-skating dude from San Bernardino whose sobs during the National Anthem after becoming the first Mexcian-American to win a Winter Olympics gold medal was my favorite moment during the past Games) … and then they brought out Brad Burlingame, brother of Charles “Chick” Burlingame, pilot of American Airlines Flight 77, the one that crashed into the Pentagon. The public address announcer told us stuff about Burlingame that didn’t make the New York Times obit, let alone the L.A. Times (which didn’t even run one for the guy, as far as I can tell). Turns out Chick (named after our beloved local basketball broadcaster, one hopes?) loved the unlucky Angels, just like me and all the other wretched Welches. He apparently celebrated his graduation from the Top Gun fighter-pilot school in Miramar by heading off to the Big A for a game. Sept. 11 was supposed to be his last flight for a while, and he’d been trying to arrange for tickets to the see the Sept. 12 game, but it didn’t work out, so his wife didn’t come along on the plane with him that day. That’s what the P.A. guy said, at least, though it doesn’t necessarily make sense….

Anyway, his brother Brad was out there, ready to deliver the ceremonial first pitch, but before that happened there were eight or so Navy SEALs up in the sky, floating softly, then somehow accelerating dangerously straight down before making a running landing on the outfield grass. It was pretty awesome to see, and the SEAL guys were pumped up, giving each other high-fives and waving to the crowd. Brad got a standing ovation, made his pitch (a one-hopper), and a chant of “USA!” started up. I thought of my high school friend Paul Marr, the guy who first got me into Hunter Thompson and R.E.M. before going off to the Navy SEALs. I think the last time I saw him was right before or after that wedding, 11 years ago. Then President Bush came on the scoreboard to deliver a goofy speech (something about “I’ve been president for just one year now, but I’ve been a baseball nut all my life!”) and we all gavhealthy and appreciative round of applause. And yeah, they played that terrible slick-produced country song about “America,” but not for long enough to actually bother me, and it was followed up by a wonderful National Anthem from jazz great (and Angels fan) Lou Rawls.

It’s hard to describe what’s different 11 years later, because I don’t precisely know myself. A big part of it is seeing the brother of a normal, smart American guy, a routinely patriotic pilot doomed to loving a dumb baseball franchise I know well, standing out on the pitcher’s mound because some sad, maniacal, fascist assholes decided they wanted to take this whole killing-noncombatants deal to the next level. In 1991, the victim was not some Newport Beach guy, it was Kuwait. And yeah, maybe I was more concerned about the hypocritical disconnects of U.S. foreign policy, than with the two very salient points the Dana Carvey Bush was trying to convince us of back then – 1) Letting a country be swallowed by a neighbor is intolerable, and 2) Letting this particular expansionist dictator go unpunished and unrestrained is downright dangerous.

Still, I think another important difference that doesn’t get enough play these days is that the country’s response is significantly less xenophobic and scary, somehow. Some smart person should conduct a study of the reactions to the Iran-hostage crisis, the Gulf War, and Sept. 11, and I would bet anyone that the number or rate of crazy-racist incidents is by far less this time around, when a bunch of freakin’ A-rabs actually did try to blow us all up. What I see, instead of blanket condemnations of nationality or religion, is rather specific critiques of individual countries, their leaders, their venal press. There is terrible anger, of course, but it isn’t against the “camel-jockeys” or whatever – it’s against, specifically, the House of Saud (and others), for speaking, behaving and governing in particularly heinous ways. Aside from one awful e-mail anti-immigration newsletter I can’t seem to unsubscribe from, and the very real if comparatively few incidents of anti-Arab-looking violence in the first weeks after the Sept. 11 massacre, I think we have comported ourselves pretty well.

Anyways, this was supposed to be a brief note about Opening Day. The Angels got trounced, of course, and looked like a nervous Rookie League team doing so. My Dad’s seats are sweet this year – about 30 rows up, staring straight down the third-base line. They still sing “God Bless America” during the seventh-inning stretch, and frankly I wish they’d stop. There’s a reason we all actually sing loud during “Take Me Out to the Ballgame.” It’s got a much easier hook, and it’s about actually going to a ballgame, which is why we’re there. I’m guessing (though who knows?) that I’ll never again be blasé about military color guards or parachuting SEALs, and I truly hope we spend all 162 games honoring heroes and ordinary people who were attacked and brutalized, unjustly, on Sept. 11. But let’s make sure, too, to enjoy baseball for the sheer bloody boring beautiful hell of it.

3/31/2002 11:47:17 PM

Comments, questions, bad links? Send e-mail to Matt Welch

© 1986-2004; All rights reserved.

straight down before making a running landing on the outfield grass. It was pretty awesome to see, and the SEAL guys were pumped up, giving each other high-fives and waving to the crowd. Brad got a standing ovation, made his pitch (a one-hopper), and a chant of “USA!” started up. I thought of my high school friend Paul Marr, the guy who first got me into Hunter Thompson and R.E.M. before going off to the Navy SEALs. I think the last time I saw him was right before or after that wedding, 11 years ago. Then President Bush came on the scoreboard to deliver a goofy speech (something about “I’ve been president for just one year now, but I’ve been a baseball nut all my life!”) and we all gave him a healthy and appreciative round of applause. And yeah, they played that terrible slick-produced country song about “America,” but not for long enough to actually bother me, and it was followed up by a wonderful National Anthem from jazz great (and Angels fan) Lou Rawls.

It’s hard to describe what’s different 11 years later, because I don’t precisely know myself. A big part of it is seeing the brother of a normal, smart American guy, a routinely patriotic pilot doomed to loving a dumb baseball franchise I know well, standing out on the pitcher’s mound because some sad, maniacal, fascist assholes decided they wanted to take this whole killing-noncombatants deal to the next level. In 1991, the victim was not some Newport Beach guy, it was Kuwait. And yeah, maybe I was more concerned about the hypocritical disconnects of U.S. foreign policy, than with the two very salient points the Dana Carvey Bush was trying to convince us of back then – 1) Letting a country be swallowed by a neighbor is intolerable, and 2) Letting this particular expansionist dictator go unpunished and unrestrained is downright dangerous.

Still, I think another important difference that doesn’t get enough play these days is that the country’s response is significantly less xenophobic and scary, somehow. Some smart person should conduct a study of the reactions to the Iran-hostage crisis, the Gulf War, and Sept. 11, and I would bet anyone that the number or rate of crazy-racist incidents is by far less this time around, when a bunch of freakin’ A-rabs actually did try to blow us all up. What I see, instead of blanket condemnations of nationality or religion, is rather specific critiques of individual countries, their leaders, their venal press. There is terrible anger, of course, but it isn’t against the “camel-jockeys” or whatever – it’s against, specifically, the House of Saud (and others), for speaking, behaving and governing in particularly heinous ways. Aside from one awful e-mail anti-immigration newsletter I can’t seem to unsubscribe from, and the very real if comparatively few incidents of anti-Arab-looking violence in the first weeks after the Sept. 11 massacre, I think we have comported ourselves pretty well.

Anyways, this was supposed to be a brief note about Opening Day. The Angels got trounced, of course, and looked like a nervous Rookie League team doing so. My Dad’s seats are sweet this year – about 30 rows up, staring straight down the third-base line. They still sing “God Bless America” during the seventh-inning stretch, and frankly I wish they’d stop. There’s a reason we all actually sing loud during “Take Me Out to the Ballgame.” It’s got a much easier hook, and it’s about actually going to a ballgame, which is why we’re there. I’m guessing (though who knows?) that I’ll never again be blasé about military color guards or parachuting SEALs, and I truly hope we spend all 162 games honoring heroes and ordinary people who were attacked and brutalized, unjustly, on Sept. 11. But let’s make sure, too, to enjoy baseball for the sheer bloody boring beautiful hell of it.

3/31/2002 11:47:17 PM

Comments, questions, bad links? Send e-mail to Matt Welch

© 1986-2004; All rights reserved.

© 1986-2004; All rights reserved.

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