Young analyst tackles the boomers: In highly tribalized times, hating en masse can be quite au courant. Examples:
You might hate everyone who votes the wrong way. Plainly, they’re all racists.
You might hate everyone from some city. Dallas, the city of hate!
Sweeping over-generalization is the gateway to this pleasing act. And as Salon helped show us this weekend, you can hate whole generations too! You don’t even have to know what you’re talking about!
Last Friday, Daniel D’Addario decided to tackle the always unpleasant boomers. We refer to his stirring report about the way some journalists have covered the Kennedy anniversary.
D’Addario’s fiery piece appeared last Friday at noon. Two days later, it still sits beneath these headlines:
Baby boomers in media make the Kennedy assassination all about themDarn those self-involved baby boomers! There they go again!
Tom Brokaw wants you to know where he was on 11/22/63
We tend to agree with D’Addario on one point. In our view, the Brokaw/ Lehrer/ Scheiffer crowd has tended to be a bit self-involved in their reminiscences about the assassination.
We’ve sniffed the scent of narcissism in their relentless musings too. In this part of his hard-hitting piece, D’Addario goes after Tom Brokaw:
D’ADDARIO (11/22/13): Take, for instance, Tom Brokaw’s brief memoir on NBC News’ Web page, noting that Brokaw, then a local news reporter in Omaha, “raced to get it on the air, stunned, confused and wondering ‘What now?’”We tend to agree with D’Addario’s snark. We too have heard an air of solipsistic self-congrats as some anchors have recalled the way they covered this event, an event which manifestly wasn’t all about them.
“I was just 23,” Brokaw wrote, “and the wholly unexpected tragedy helped prepare me for a lifetime of covering world altering events.” So, in a sense, thank heavens for the Kennedy assassination, for without it, we would not have had NBC News anchor Tom Brokaw, whose career has included a TV special and tie-in book called “Where Were You,” about Kennedy’s assassination!
Self-involvement has been a characteristic of anchors at least since the days of Ted Baxter, who was fictional. Unfortunately, D’Addario’s critique goes crazily wrong in two ways as he proceeds:
D’ADDARIO (continuing directly): Brokaw is and has long been the very face of boomer nostalgia for a simpler time, and explicitly views a national crisis as an opportunity for career advancement. “For you, that was the beginning of a CBS career, in a way,” he told Dan Rather in a recent interview on “Morning Joe”; Rather replied, in part, “I don’t like to speak of it in those terms.” The former NBC anchor, in all of his books, tends to view history as anecdotal and incidental—for people like former Nixon aide Frank Gannon, another of Brokaw’s “Morning Joe” guests, an incoherent story about planning to play the piano for Kennedy sheds light on the assassination. For Brokaw, it’s about media’s power to speak to the nation.In this account, Brokaw and Gannon see the anniversary as being All About Them. (Rather doesn’t.) Brokaw is the very face of boomer nostalgia!
As he closes, D’Addario spanks this self-involved generation again. As the following passage starts, he’s talking about a bit of self-love involving Bob Scheiffer:
D’ADDARIO: Fifty years later, and CBS is still hung up on its scoop. It’s remarkable, by contrast, how quickly after the events of Sept. 11, 2001, news organizations recognized that what had been unique about the day was not their coverage of it. “Morning Joe” will rebroadcast the “Today” coverage of the towers falling each year, but that’s as far as news networks trumpeting their own centrality to the day goes.Those boomers, D’Addario says as he closes. To them, it’s all about them!
Perhaps that’s because the anchors most active in news coverage in 2001 were accustomed to a landscape in which the news, not the newsman, had come to be the most important thing. When Tom Brokaw memorializes Kennedy, he’s memorializing an unsustainable environment, one in which he and men like him were the arbiters of information. Now, perfectly in line with the boomer generation, the only information he can exclusively give us is about himself.
This would be an excellent analysis except for two basic facts:
First, it’s a bad idea to make sweeping generalizations about whole generations. Are all the boomers really as bad as Brokaw, their heinous figurehead?
Probably not! In part, that stems from a second fact: Brokaw and Schieffer aren’t boomers!
Uh-oh! Brokaw was born in 1940, Schieffer in 1937. By normal reckoning, the baby boomers are the people born in the post-war baby boom, between 1946 and 1964.
Brokaw and Schieffer aren’t baby boomers! As Rick Perry might have said, “Oops.”
(Perry, born in 1950, actually is a baby boomer, if you really feel the need to parse the world that way.)
D’Addario comes by his fire naturally. He graduated from Columbia in 2010, filled with anger at the generations which condemned him to such a hard fate.
That said, hating en masse is a bad idea. But if you do decide to slime an entire generation, you might want to figure out when it starts and ends.
D’Addario’s degree is in American studies. What are they teaching these kids today if not when the baby boom started?
Speaking of righteous self-involvement: Everybody makes mistakes. That said:
D’Addario’s piece appeared at noon on Friday. Instantly, commenters noted the problem with the premise which blares from its headlines.
Tom Brokaw isn’t a boomer! But at Salon, the editors don’t seem to care. Two days later, the fiery piece sits unchanged, under the very same headlines.
Our view? If you think Brokaw’s a mess, go try the new Salon!
puke-making gnawing point of the day:ReplyDelete
"Brokaw isn't a boomer".
Homorously enough, the "youngish" writer from an Ivy school whose major we must be told about, never really said Brokaw or Schieffer were boomers.Delete
Brokaw is "the very face of boomer nostalgia" and he "is
perfectly in line" with that generation. One can be both of those things without being a member of that generation. And Scheiffer is never connected to that genderation at all.
Perhaps Somerby is as bad at reading as the Salon headline writer, who made the same mistake as Somerby.
Of course Somerby has never has a misleading headline himself. At least in my street fighting imagination he hasn't. But, that is just my imagination, and I, like Bob
Somerby, am a self absorbed boomer who hates uppity youngsters from priveleged colleges who get jobs they haven't earned.
The column isn't only about whether Brokaw is a boomer or not. It is about whether reporters are the news they are supposed to be reporting on. The movie Broadcast News explored this issue when it criticized William Hurt's character for cutting away from the person speaking to show his reaction. As portrayed in the film, the standards of journalism were deteriorating then and are now a lost cause. Brokaw symbolizes the insidious threat embodied by William Hurt's ignorant but attractive news reader. Unlike Hurt's character, Brokaw is smart enough to know better but he has always been a careerist and not someone much concerned with the ethics of a now empty-souled profession. So, I agree with Bob. Kennedy's death was not about boomer nostalgia, nor was it about Brokaw's reaction to it, nor was it about some awful culture of hate and gun violence in Texas. It was about the death of American exceptionalism as we once again realized that we are not immune to the same events that have happened in Europe and elsewhere in the world repeatedly, because heads that wear crowns tend to have lower life expectancies than those they govern, whether elected or born to their seats of power.Delete
Almost all of the coverage of the anniversary of Kennedy's killing has featured interviews with people about where they were and what they were doing, from the single witness who saw Oswald in the Book Depository window, to the shoe store manager who saw him on the street and followed him to the movie theater, to the various reporters on the scene who heard shots and witnessed the confused aftermath. First-hand stories about where you were when you heard the news have been all over the media. I don't think journalists should be singled out for contributing their own first-hand accounts. That seems to be how the day is commemorated -- not analyses of the impact of his death on our country or the world, not analyses of why he may have died, not anything that would take some work or might be controversial or historical. No one seems to want to think that much or invest that kind of energy.ReplyDelete
Further, I don't think boomers are responsible for nostalgia over everything mid-century modern (the trendiest time period for home decorating these days), the new psychedelia, mod clothing styles. It isn't boomers buying this stuff. It is young people who share the revived fascination with Marilyn Monroe (on Smash and in ads), who was another tragic figure of the time period, J.D. Salinger, the movie version of "On the Road," new books about The Beatles, and so on. I don't think Boomers are the ones buying this stuff.
There are lots and lots of great photographs of Marilyn Monroe so I guess I can understand why she is an icon. The sad facts of her death still make it seem ghoulish to me. Same with Elvis Presley. I've always found the Elvis impersonator/Elvis is alive stuff very distasteful.Delete
Re Baby Boomer journalists thinking the Kennedy assassination is all about themReplyDelete
There was a very odd thing on CSPAN Washington Journal the other day with another boomer-Kennedy-journalist, Richard Reeves. Cynithia from Palm Beach called in and proceeded to say she was Rose Kennedy's secretary for 3 years beginning late 1963. She had a number of interesting things to say and wanted to be in touch with Reeves, who has written books about lKennedy. She had to say it at least 3 times without Reeves showing any interest in talking to her later.
Very, very weird. You'd think this lady would be a treasure (she was clearly not off her rocker or delusional in any way). She had a number of insights into what these famous people were like. Said Jackie Kennedy was the nicest person she ever met; Jackie was always sensitive and kind to everyone.
Here was someone who actually spent a lot of time with members of the Kennedy family and could have been found and wants to talk about that time.
There could be more to this story than was evident from the broadcast. For example, perhaps Cynthia was not actually Rose Kennedy's secretary but a person seeking attention, and perhaps Reeves knew that but didn't want to confront her on the air. Or perhaps it is just that memory is fragile and an elderly person's reminiscences 50 years after the time are not interesting because so much detail will have been forgotten or distorted, or been changed by years of retelling. One need not be "off her rocker or delusional" to have been affected by the passage of time. But the main problem is that the identity of someone calling in to a show cannot be verified. Caroline Kennedy's latest book about Jackie suggests she had some caustic opinions about people, so portraying her as always kind may be true but not the whole story. Would a secretary to a relative know the true Jackie? Is being kind to the hired help really an insight into her character?Delete
I'd have thought Richard Reeves would have wanted to take a few minutes to find out! I think he's written more than one book on the Kennedys.Delete
This lady was sharp and said she'd writting things down. In fact, she was so sharp that I would be surprised if she hadn't kept her W-2s and tax forms from that time to prove that she had been a Kennedy secretary.
She certainly is not an opportunist. She must be quite elderly herself and over the years, Kennedy employees have sold their stories if they had anything negative to say. This lady waited until everyone was gone and yet spoke very respectfully of everyone. She told of President Johnson coming to the Kennedy home to meet "The Ambassador" (Joseph Kennedy, JFK's father) and it was news to Reeves that LBJ had done that.
I bet she had examples of how Jackie Kennedy was nice and kind and it'll be a shame if thats lost to history. The CSPAN host, Steve Scully clearly wanted Reeves to talk with her. Hopefully CSPAN took down her name and phone number so someone will contact her if Reeves doesn't.
Lionel, how can you possibly know whether she was (1) sharp as opposed to making things up, (2) not an opportunist. Do you even know whether she sold her story to everyone buying? Reeves cannot explore her story on the air. That isn't why he was there. He has already written his book -- it wasn't a work in progress, so how could he amend it based on anything this person said. Do you know whether he may have approached her and been refused an interview? Do you know anything about this person except what you heard on the air and are imagining about her?Delete
I bet she owns cats and gives good Halloween candy. I bet she knits sweaters for her grandkids. I bet she is a thoroughly nice old lady. But I don't know whether any of that is true and I certainly am not going to take your word for how much she knew and how much Reeves missed by not interviewing her on the air, in a spontaneous confrontation engineered by CSPAN but apparently not agreed to by Reeves. Don't you think it would have been courteous to let Reeves prepare a set of questions to ask such a person, assuming she were genuine?
I doubt Rose Kennedy's secretary has any light to shed 50 years after the fact on anything of historical relevance. I don't blame Reeves for being reluctant to interview a person sight unseen, without preparation, on the air, under circumstances where he had no knowledge of whether that person is real or a fraud. History isn't done that way. Just on-air entertainment -- this springing of surprise guests on unsuspecting interviewees is a Jerry Springer type of tactic and there is no reason why Reeves should participate in it. It was very professional of him not to walk off the show, if CPAN set this up. And you are being way too gullible to take it at face value like this.
People misrepresent their past histories frequently. That is why the website Stolen Valor exists -- to verify the claims of people who assert they were in various wars and won medals or military ranks they didn't actually hold. People confess to crimes they didn't commit, claim to be witnesses to events they demonstrably were not present for, and exaggerate or make up self-aggrandizing events that never happened. Look at Reagan's story about being a fighter pilot in the war -- entirely untrue. But more importantly, she was not in a position to be able to say anything much of historical interest about Jackie or her husband. The banality of describing Jackie as nice and kind does not deserve air time, in my opinion. Reeves was nice and kind because he didn't say anything like that and apparently tried to get through the experience with some dignity, without encouraging or discouraging the caller. It sounds like a ridiculous waste of air time. CSPAN should know better.
That's absurd. You didn't hear the lady, did you? Steve Scully very much found her credible, it was obvious.Delete
Reeves is either senile or JFK has become something strange to him, something that's more about Richard Reeves and Richard Reeves' own perception of Kennedy.
It really doesn't matter whether Steve Scully found her credible or not. He isn't the JFK scholar and he doesn't know how to evaluate her claims. People do not have to take at face value the dubious claims of callers to a show. That you believe her explains a whole lot about why you are a conservative and take at face value things told you on Fox, Limbaugh, and by other conservative pundits. You do not know how to critically evaluate claims. You blame people who are critical instead of understanding that anyone can say anything and what matters is evidence. Reeves did the work to write his book. What he has to say is much more important than some old lady who calls in, no matter what her claims. Frankly, why should anyone care about a chance encounter with Jackie on a call-in show about a book about JFK. It reminds me of the Diane Rheims show last week when all the callers wanted to talk about Benjamin Franklin when the author had written a book about his sister, Jane Franklin and she was the topic under discussion. Even someone who called in and said he knew Ben Franklin personally would have been off-topic, just as this old woman was with her story about how nice Jackie was.Delete
Are you Richard Reeves? Because that would explain it: You are senile.
You think Reeves, the author of a book about Kennedy and the invited guest on the show, should have spent time asking this uninvited caller more questions about her brief interactions with Jackie Kennedy because she was a potential treasure trove of information? What could that caller possibly have said that would be as enlightening as hearing the JFK scholar himself talk more about his book? When a caller spends time talking about him or her self instead of the topic at hand, it is as egotistical as when Brokaw discusses his reaction to Kennedy, as if it were important news. Your demand that Reeves take the elderly caller more seriously makes no sense at all. She wasn't important enough in JFK's life (or Jackie's) to know anything or say anything relevant (as evidenced by her remark that Jackie was nice and kind). It wastes the time of the interesting scholar and does nothing but let an old woman feel momentarily important, at everyone else's expense. It sounds like Reeves was polite and that is his only responsibility to such a caller, in my opinion. When JFK's dry cleaners call in, be sure to let me know. At least they will know how much change he left in his pockets.Delete
Re the Reeves interview: He did tell the woman that he would like to talk to her, and that he would be in her neighborhood in Florida the next day. The woman was to leave her phone number with Scully's staff, who would give it to Reeves. I heard the whole interchange, and I quickly became suspicious of a woman who became Rose Kennedy's secretary on the basis of Rose reading her credentials and (as I recall) talking to her briefly. Scully and Reeves were very polite to the woman and did not challenge her claims. Had the interview gone on, I suspect that it would have led to some sort of monologue of unsubstantiated gossip. I certainly do not fault either Scully or Reeves for their response to the caller.Delete
Reeves was so obviously befuddled while Scully was intent on asking questions of the lady. In fact, far from wanting to do a "monologue," the lady specifically said she didn't want to say much on the air.
Reeves really made no effort to have a way to contact that lady, it was all Scully.
Cher called CSPAN Washington Journal once years ago and Dabney Coleman called once and said he'd been at school with James Baker.
The Professors anyone? " We liberals"? Etc
Just don't ask former CIA Director, George H.W. Bush. He doesn't know where he was when he heard the news of JFK's assassination.ReplyDelete
What right does this intellectual mugger have to criticize Salon that at least touches on deep fundamental issuesReplyDelete
"Noam Chomsky: America is a terrified country
The philosopher on the violence we wage abroad, the income inequality we face at home and where we go from here"
What WAS bone-gnawer's stand on the supreme crime of the Iraqi genocide? He vaguely hints that "the war on Gore" put Baby Bush in office which led to that crime - DID HE EVER GO ON RECORD THAT HE OPPOSED THAT WAR BEFORE IT HAPPENED?
Remember that after 9/11 the US has changed into a gulag where you might hear the knock on the door at night purely for opinions. Since he only safely mugs liberals on trivialities, he should have some more humility.
It's certainly true in my case that I can recall just where I was when I heard the news of Kennedy's assassination. I, and, many Americans were devastated. It wasn't just grief. We felt the country had lost something irretrievable. We felt bereft without JFK to lead us.ReplyDelete
IMHO that feeling wasn't an accident. It was caused by a kind of permanent campaign introduced the JFK's team. If Eisenhower had died in office, he'd have been mourned, because he was widely loved. But, we wouldn't have felt that we couldn't get along without him. I think the feeling that the nation couldn't get along without Kennedy was the direct result of his team continuing to promote him even after he was in office.
Kennedy's message was all "hopey changey" like Obama's. When he was shot, some of us felt like our hopes for change were being shot down too. It wasn't that we felt the country couldn't get along without him. It was that we felt the country would be back on the wrong track without him.Delete
My family was for Adlai Stevenson and we felt the Democratic convention had been hijacked by Kennedy because the pledged delegates won by Stevenson defected on the first ballot to nominate Kennedy, again much like the shenanigans surrounding Obama's nomination. Not everyone idolized Kennedy in the Democratic party. I think his canonization came after his death, as is proper with saints. Had he lived, I think those idealistic hopes would have been disappointed, just as they have been for many (if not most) Obama supporters. It is part of growing up and that's what happens when much of your support comes from youth (first time voters, especially), as occurred with Kennedy, and especially Bobby.
That was also an era of "heroes" - the astronauts, the movie stars, war veterans. God forbid, but if a president died in office today for any reason, it would not be the same.Delete
JFK was himself a war hero. Remember PT109?Delete
The NYT estimated that Kennedy had 600-700 committed delegates going into the 1960 convention. He needed 761. Stevenson entered the race two weeks before the convention. He ran in no primaries, of which there were few compared to today, and his strategy was to accept a draft. How many unfaithful Stevenson delegates do you think there were?
There were no "shenanigans surrounding Obama's nomination." What are you talking about?
I am talking about the fact that Clinton's earned, pledged delegates were pressured to switch to Obama so that he would be nominated unanimously on the first ballot. I am talking about the fact that several states delegates would not switch and thus abstained instead of reporting high numbers for Clinton (California & NJ comes to mind). These were skipped in the roll call. I am talking about how the roll call was never completed, so there was not a final tally of how many delegates Clinton EARNED through winning primaries. I am talking about the Rules Committee decision to award delegates won by Clinton in Michigan to Obama even though his name did not appear on the ballot at all, by his campaign's choice. A rules committee cannot take delegates legitimately won by a candidate during a primary and summarily give them to a candidate not on the ballot. That denies the votes of those who participated in the primary. I am talking about the decision to count only half of Florida's delegates BECAUSE that was a state won by Clinton and counting all of them might give her too close a challenge to Obama's number of pledged delegates.Delete
The CDC (California Democratic Committee) voted at its state convention to pledge its delegates to Stevenson. They didn't honor the wishes of their committee's vote and instead switched to Kennedy on the first ballot. Had they waited until the second ballot, as is traditional, they could have switched without any fuss. How many delegates did CA have in that time? I don't know, but CA has always been a populous state, so it is not trivial. That Kennedy would have won anyway is not the point. When these guys do have the nomination sewed up, why do they need to subvert the process? Did Obama need to humiliate Clinton? He didn't even let her make her concession speech, as is traditional. Hubris.
1. Clinton's delegates were no doubt pressured to switch, but she had released them the morning before the roll call.
2. No states "abstained." California passed. The head of the delegation reported that he didn't have an accurate count of his 441 members. A couple of superdelegates were absent (no alternates for teem), but maybe that's bullshit. Who knows? New Jersey, on the other hand, voted.
3. The roll was not completed because when New Mexico yielded to New York, Clinton herself asked that the rules be suspended and that Obama be nominated by acclimation. The roll call was thus not completed.
4. There was a final tally. The DNC reported the official vote from tall sheets as Obama 3188.5, Clinton 1010.5. The televised roll call was nothing more than choreographed theater. The number of Clinton's earned delegates was about twice her final total and is easily learned from election websites.
5. The rules committee can do what it wants. Michigan and Florida were at first stripped of their delegates for holding primaries too early. This was announced before the primaries were held. A compromise was reached at the convention whereby the two states were granted half their nominal number. (The vote was 18-9 in favor of that compromise, and 13 members of the rules committee were committed to Clinton.) Both Clinton and Obama had their delegate votes halved, so this was a wash.
Your memory of the 1960 Democratic Convention is as flawed as your understanding of the 2008 Convention.
The CDC is likely not the California Democratic Committee, but the California Democratic Council, which is an umbrella group of Democratic volunteer organizations. It was strongly pro-Stevenson in 1960, but it didn't dictate the makeup of the California delegation. Governor Pat Brown convinced Kennedy to forgo running against him in the California primary, which Brown won to become a favorite son candidate. Brown put together the delegation, which was committed to him on the first ballot. The quid pro quo was that Brown was to deliver the delegation to Kennedy after the first ballot. But Brown released the 81-member delegation before the roll call, and on the first ballot, the contentious delegation split 33.5 Kennedy, 30.5 Stevenson, with the remaining 17 going to Johnson and Symington.
Compare bone-gnawer's reporting on Zimmerman and the hated Salon:ReplyDelete
"Shellie told authorities that Zimmerman had punched her father in the nose, broken her iPad, and that he had his hand on his gun. Though no charges were filed, Shellie admitted to NBC’s “Today” that she doubts her husband’s innocence in the Trayvon Martin killing case. “I think anyone would doubt [his] innocence,” she said and added that recent ”revelations helped take the blinders off” — and that she no longer knows who George really is."
Bone-gnawer will have to answer for this. FINALLY, like Bob Grant skirted the edge of racism and got caught when he said without thinking ("unfortunately secretary Brown will turn out to have been the only survivor about a plane crash") bone-gnawer's secret is out.
Bone-gnawer liberal-bashed in defense of a killer - but is too cowardly to issue a mea culpa.
Thank you for using the term "bone gnawer." It lets me know that you are a troll and that I can skip any of your comments.Delete
The whole concept of "generation" is specious nonsense, invented by certain second-rate "social scientists" and promoted by hacks mistakenly calling themselves journalists. There are no "Boomers", "Millennials", "Silents", "Greatest Generation", and so on. There are complex, complicated human beings caught up in the interactive processes of reality, people born at certain points in history who respond to the events of their times in highly individual ways. The term "generation" cannot be defined coherently. It is used very, very often to smear entire groups of people. It obscures rather than clarifies meaning. It isn't analysis of any kind--it's numerology. Very often to a person that subscribes to this idiocy, individual biography means nothing. Why,they don't need to know anything about you except when you were born--and they think they know you. "Generation" is a concept that needs to be thrown out for good.ReplyDelete
Amen. There are, however geezers and guppies in each generation. And as demonstrated in this blog, the geezers often envy and the guppies.Delete
For that matter, there is nothing actually significant about the fact that it is the 50th anniversary of his assassination. It's a convention, but there is no real reason why the 50th anniversary is any different from any other date.Delete
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