Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Globe Tells a Good Story

Beaming it right at you:

"The cult of ‘true’ — or getting the facts right" by Alex Beam   July 01, 2015

The movie “Jurassic World” rules the summer box office, as theatergoers shell out – once again — to watch computer-generated dinoraptors maul their traditional enemies. That would be us. Not to be denied their summer fun, paleontologists have boldly stepped forward to warn the public: A lot of the movie isn’t true.

Haven't seen it. Maybe when it comes on TV, but it's kind of a been there, done that.

Say it ain’t so! Writing on the CNN website, University of Southampton vertebrate paleontologist Darren Naish calls out several gross misrepresentations of our fossily friends. The pterosaurs of “Jurassic World” are not “the attractive, furry beasts they should be,” Naish complains, “but shiny-skinned horrors with grotesque, gnarly faces.” He calls the movie “a huge leap backwards and a bitter disappointment.”

A few rungs up the cultural fish ladder, a new biography of the celebrated New Yorker writer Joseph Mitchell reveals some inconvenient truths about the storied scribbler: Mitchell made stuff up. Biographer Thomas Kunkel reports that the central character of Mitchell’s book “Old Mr. Flood” didn’t exist. Kunkel adds that the subject of a long 1942 New Yorker profile was likewise fictional.

First thing we do, let’s fire all the fact-checkers! I write that as a former fact-checker who allowed many juicy errors to evade my vigilant eye.

What disturbing news. First we learn that not every word published in The New Yorker is true, then we are told that a movie executive-produced by Steven Spielberg may be taking some liberties with the fossil record. What’s next? Will some idiot suggest that Walt Disney’s “Pocahontas” “is complete and utter bunkum”? 

Happens all the time in Hollywood and the jew$paper. the version of history I've been taught and told is through a pri$m of distortion to serve a certain chosen few.

I was the idiot who suggested that in a column 20 years ago. Clearly, my thinking has changed. I really don’t care if the Powhatan warrior Opechancanough’s niece wasn’t actually named Pocahontas. I don’t care if she never met Captain John Smith. It’s a sweet story nonetheless. To invoke the payoff quote from the cinema classic, “The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance” — “When the legend becomes fact, print the legend.”

Good movie, yes.

Earlier this year, I read Christie Aschwanden’s online essay “Journalists Should Act More Like Scientists.” She wrote it responding to Rolling Stone’s spectacularly fictional “true” account of a purported rape at the University of Virginia. “An escalating fixation on perfectly drawn characters and beautiful narratives has emphasized storytelling over truth,” Aschwanden wrote. 

I stand by my story, and what do you think I'm reading every morning?

She cited the work of Bob Dylan quote-piper Jonah Lehrer, public radio fabulizer Mike Daisey (whose name she misspelled – how scientific is that?), and magazine writers Tom Junod and Malcolm Gladwell as examples of writers who pushed stories further than the facts could bear.

I’m a little unclear on Junod’s and Gladwell’s alleged crimes. I’d call the former a never-edited overwriter and the latter a successful popularizer, but those aren’t crimes in my book.

More important is Aschwanden’s conclusion: “When a scientific theory comes face to face with new facts, scientists adjust the theory accordingly, and journalists should do the same.” 

No they don't. Not on a particularly contentious issue regarding hot air.

Really? I’d have to argue that some of the greatest books ever written are fiction masquerading as fact. Case in point: Vladimir Nabokov’s “Speak, Memory.” Like Joseph Mitchell’s artful confabulations, most of “Memory” appeared as “fact” pieces in The New Yorker. I don’t think Nabokov had perfect recall of his five-year-old life, but I really don’t care. He wrote a memoir of remarkable beauty that recreates the lost era of rural, tsarist Russia with a reasonable degree of accuracy. 

(Blog editor's chin slumps to chest. And you wonder why I think the way I do now?)

Should writers and journalists be as accurate as scientists?

Who said the $cienti$ts are accurate? NOAA was wrong again regarding the winter!

It’s newspaper heresy, but I say no. Of course we try to get the facts straight, and the names spelled correctly. But we are not scientists, we are storytellers. It is the world’s oldest and most honorable profession.

Actually, that is something else and sad to say, there is no guarantee with the $cienti$ts these days. 

Story's done.


Hey, what's a little white lie other than a touch of wisdom, huh? 

The bigger point with Beam would be the framed reference, i.e. the ma$$ media and propaganda pre$$ will make up little things but not the big stuff. 

"Elizabeth McIntosh, 100; her lies helped win a war" by Adam Bernstein Washington Post   June 12, 2015

WASHINGTON — Elizabeth McIntosh, who conjured lies in the line of duty for the Office of Strategic Services and as an author wrote about the women who used their brains — and sometimes their bodies — to help the spy agency in World War II, died June 8 in Lake Ridge, Va. She was 100.

The cause was a heart attack, said Alice Booher, her legal representative.

The daughter of a sportswriter, Mrs. McIntosh grew up in Hawaii and followed her father into journalism. She reported on women’s issues for the Scripps Howard news service but grew restless after having witnessed the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941.

A family acquaintance with connections to the OSS, which later evolved into the CIA, asked her, ‘‘ ‘Wouldn’t you like to get into something interesting like. . .’ You know, he didn’t say ‘spying,’ but he just said, ‘more interesting maybe than the work you’re doing.’ ’’

She joined the OSS in 1943 and completed field-agent training in interrogation techniques, clandestine meetings, and use of firearms. But cloak-and-dagger espionage or Mata Hari-style boudoir intrigue would not be her legacy.

Instead, her fluency in Japanese and background as a newspaper reporter made her ideal for ‘‘morale operations’’ in Asia, also known as ‘‘black’’ propaganda — spreading authentic-sounding misinformation designed to demoralize and confuse the enemy. 


It's what I'm reading every morning.

Stationed in New Delhi and later Kunming, China — where she befriended the future chef Julia Child — she participated in efforts to forge fake letters and documents as well as pamphlets and newspaper stories with realistic-seeming tales of suffering on the Japanese mainland.

Now I'm demoralized and confused about what I'm reading.

Such accounts — of starving youths and young women so traumatized by bombing that they were unable to bear children — reached Japanese troops by radio, airdrop, mail, and other forms of subterfuge.

Well, that actually ended up happening. They firebombed Tokyo and dozens of other cities with napalm before the two big blasts, the single greatest war criminal acts in all human history (once again, on behalf of my criminal government I offer my deepest regrets and humblest apologies for those acts even though I was not alive).

Japanese soldiers were known to be honor-bound to fight to the death, and Mrs. McIntosh played a role in falsifying instructions designed to induce them to surrender more quickly in Burma toward the end of that campaign. According to an official OSS history, the forgery was successful in vastly reducing Allied casualties.

 I suppose that was for the best. It saved lives.

On another occasion, Mrs. McIntosh delivered an explosive masquerading as a lump of coal — the device was dubbed ‘‘black Joe’’ — to a Chinese operative of the OSS.

The agent took the dynamite aboard a train ferrying Japanese soldiers and waited for the opportune moment to toss it into the engine before jumping to safety. The train blew up as it crossed a bridge.

The Bridge on the River Kwai? C'mon! 

Btw, that would an act of TERRORISM, wouldn't it?

Recounting the story to the Washington Post in 2011, she confessed to some initial guilt over the many deaths. But she quickly reconsidered, saying about the TNT, ‘‘I was just the one who handed it to the guy who did the job.’’

Yeah, rationalize it all away.

One of her final operations involved funneling misinformation to a Chinese fortune-teller whose radio show was a favorite of Japanese soldiers. She and a colleague drummed up various scenarios: an earthquake in Japan? Too commonplace. Maybe an earthquake and a tidal wave?


They settled on something vague but catastrophic — ‘‘something we can’t even mention because it is so dreadful and it is going to eradicate one whole area of Japan.’’ That same day, Americans dropped the atomic bomb on Hiroshima, prompting an astonished colleague to ask how she knew about the top-secret program.

After the war, Mrs. McIntosh had a brief stint covering fashion for Glamour magazine before moving on to writing jobs for the Voice of America and the State Department. From 1958 to 1973, she worked for the CIA on classified operations that often used her burgeoning literary career as a cover....

Related: Operation Mockingbird

And you wonder why I no longer believe in my new$paper?