Smile Politely

Sifting through the Gazoo

What you missed in “your” hometown newspaper this weekend:

  • The annual feel-good graduation story and an interview with the new UI president were the front-page stories.
  • In the local section, there was news about the Urbana downtown planning process and the bike lane controversy (more later), and not much else of notice.
  • The rest of the paper contained the usual fluff: AP copy — including an old piece on a Leopold Center (at Iowa State) study about how one county in Iowa could provide the region with almost all its produce — the usual press release and extension service stuff, and what new consignment and nail shops are opening (why they put their best reporter — Christine Des Garennes — on this [dead] beat is beyond me).

The interview with the new President, Michael Hogan, despite the predictable questions about the admissions scandal (and predictable responses), was fairly lively (blessedly, no Chief question), and he comes across as a pretty down-to-earth, friendly Midwestern kind of guy. One surprising bit of news was that he did his M.A. at Iowa under the soon-to-be-famous Christopher Lasch, who at the time identified himself as a socialist and who said Marxism was indispensible to him intellectually. (This position changed for Lasch in the ’70s and ’80s as he became increasingly iconoclastic and as contemptuous of the New Left as he was of conservatives like William Buckley). That Hogan identified the Lasch of the ’60s as a great mentor and influence on him must give the Gazette‘s editorial cabal great pause.

That pause is obvious in the Commentary section editorial and in the wandering resentful bloviations of editor John Foreman. Both were remarkably tepid toward Hogan, not quite knowing what to make of him. This is in marked contrast to the drooling when Joe White was hired to put those business skills to work (which he did). The editorial, looking like the work of Jim Dey, was typically skeptical and cynical in undertone, while being civil in welcoming him. Foreman quickly went negative and snarky, dredging up every possibly unflattering thing said or thought about Hogan. They were all trivial, and he made paranoid intimations about the new hire being unveiled in Chicago, not C-U, then — God please grant us a reprieve from this shit — brought up Chief Illiniwek, again. I expect cordial relations for now between the Gazette editorial cabal and Hogan, but nothing more. No need to read this swill.

This all paled in comparison to an exceptionally scurrilous piece of propaganda, labeled a guest commentary, by Matt Lloyd, indentified as a graduate of UIUC now living in Maryland. What’s most shocking is not the content of the piece, a hysterical and overwrought attack on the president of Ecuador, Rafael Correa, for being a “dictator” and on the U of I for honoring one of its most prestigious graduates. What’s most deplorable is that the Gazette decided to not reveal that Matt Lloyd is Communications Director for the House Republican Conference. In other words, he’s the chief flack for an increasingly crazy party.

The smear job on Correa and the U of I reads like something from that wing, which is driven even crazier by the leftward tilt in Latin America. They’d rather have it be run by American corporations with gunboats again, I suppose. It’s not worth going into the piece except to say it’s full of half-truths at best, guilt by association, and all sorts of the type of demagoguery that would make Joseph Goebbels proud. (Whoops, I’m falling into the tit for tat here, aren’t I?). Anyway, that the Gazette would even run such nonsense is bad enough (although hardly surprising, given some of the other crackpot stuff they routinely run), but to hide the interests of the author is just plain dishonest.

And then there was the regular cast of characters: George Will, Rush Limbaugh’s high-falutin’ vardøger, had an utterly predictable right-wing piece on European debt issues, in which he gets to name-drop the Treaty of Westphalia (and I get to say vardøger!). He should go back to being a boring baseball writer instead of being a boring demagogue. The weekly missive from our favorite Christo-Fascist Crusader Cal Thomas darkly hints that Elena Kagen, from (gasp) Harvard [one of Will’s old bête noirs until he discovered the place is lousy with right wing neo-liberalism], might not be as keen as he is (and you should be too!!) on establishing theocracy here. He wants it to be an issue in the coming elections. Me, too.

There was also a bit of RNC boilerplate passed along by our cipher congressman Tim Johnson, some resentment fuel about all those nasty immigrants (deliberately — deliberately I say! — breaking our laws) who will be given AMNESTY (horrors) and will then break our health care system with their voracious demands, and undermine our values … ad nauseum. Nice piece of bigotry dressed up as law enforcement. We also had the regular letter from local loon Mark Thompson, which echoed Johnson on immigration (reading from the same RNC polling-based talking points, no doubt), then going on about the global warming hoax, and calling Christian Soldiers to action.

And there was another letter from someone just sick about all the terrible criticism of Champaign cop Norbits and how it was the kid’s fault for getting himself killed. On the other side, an interesting letter from Janet Scharlau (whose family farms in the Olympian Drive expansion corridor, and who opposes the road extension plan) linking downtown Urbana development plans (or lack thereof) to the road project, and a letter decrying the long American history — up through the Tea Party — of what was identified by Richard Hofstadter in his book The Paranoid Style in American Politics, as, well, the paranoid American. Nice quote included: “American life has served again and again as an arena for uncommonly angry minds.” In a bit of synchronicity, it should be noted that Hofstadter was Lasch’s mentor at Columbia.

The cover story in Commentary was a decent AP article from Martha Mendoza on the abject failure and enormous expense of Nixon’s 40-year-old war on drugs. Astonishing statistic in the article: the annual global drug business is $320 billion. The cost of incarceration for drug offenses in the U.S. alone is $450 billion.

Oh, yeah, in Urbana news, Steve Bauer (who twitters as Boogadancer, I kid you not) had a story on the bike lane controversy, which was confused and unenlightening — see the SP article and comments for a better idea — and one on the downtown planning project — the latest in the ongoing planning charades or charrettes or whatever the “stakeholders” “visioning” sessions are called. It’s pretty much “he said, she said,” with the usual and expected responses (although the one calling for downtown to be an ecotourism destination was kind of amusing, if not deranged). Read it at your leisure on-line, but also include Scharlau’s letter, except inexplicably (by which I mean they haven’t explained it) the Gazette refuses to publish its letters and commentaries, except for their editorials, on-line. Fine. Might I then suggest that Craigslist is a much better site for local classifieds.

There, you’ve been saved $1.50, which I suggest you spend in the downtown Urbana destination, on something ecotourist-y maybe. Or send it to the oppressed bankers in Ecuador.

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