Daily Archives: July 3, 2010

What’s Wrong with the New York Times, Ctd

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Bill Keller of the New York Times weasel-words around the Kennedy School study confirming that the Times and other mass-circulation dailies did not use the word “torture” to describe waterboarding when it became apparent that the Bush administration practiced it.

This of course does not add anything to what we already know, but it is a remarkably candid manifestation of the editorial cowardice of the mainstream media when confronting the power it is supposed to challenge.  The issue of waterboarding was never, as Keller puts it, a “political dispute” — it was and is a matter of law, and the law has never been ambiguous.

Bill Keller, the executive editor of The Times, said the newspaper has written so much about the issue of water-boarding that “I think this Kennedy School study — by focusing on whether we have embraced the politically correct term of art in our news stories — is somewhat misleading and tendentious.”

In an e-mail message on Thursday, Mr. Keller said that defenders of the practice of water-boarding, “including senior officials of the Bush administration,” insisted that it did not constitute torture.

“When using a word amounts to taking sides in a political dispute, our general practice is to supply the readers with the information to decide for themselves,” Mr. Keller wrote. “Thus we describe the practice vividly, and we point out that it is denounced by international covenants and human rights advocates as a form of torture. Nobody reading The Times’ coverage could be ignorant of the extent of the practice (much of that from information we broke) or mistake it for something benign (we usually use the word ‘brutal.’)”

Saturday Night at the Movies: “Medea”

Maria Callas, in her only film role (and in which she does not sing), in Pier Paulo Pasolini’s film adaptation of Medea.

Frye cites Medea in a couple of places in notebook 13a to clarify his thinking on tragedy:

The sense of tragedy comes from the emphasis on causality in the plot.  Thus Medea begins with the Nurse wishing that a lot of things hadn’t happened which in fact had happened.  The sense of causality is in its turn derived from the primary contract, the sense of the natural law, which operates morally as nemesis.  This is all in AC: what I didn’t get so clear there was the sense of two contrasting falls, one tragic, Adam into the wilderness, & one ironic, Israel into Egypt.  The ironic contract is the social contract properly speaking, an imitation of natural law but without its certainty, hence the arbitrary quality, which being social rather than natural is not genuine fatality.  Hence hamartia, which is really a loophole that prevents fatality: character cooperating with events.  (CW 20, 290)

Jason blandly tell Medea, when she’s reproaching him for deserting her that she’s had all the advantages of a Hellenic education, & learning what justice & fair dealing are.  Good e.g. of the way tragedy concentrates on the natural & primitive & not the social contract.  (CW 20, 293)

The rest of the film after the jump.

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Quebec City

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On this date in 1608 the City of Quebec was founded by Samuel de Champlain.

Frye in an interview with Bill Moyers in 1988:

Moyers: So much of American history has taken on mythological proportions in our society — the city set upon a hill, frontier, the manifest destiny to make the world safe for democracy.  Mythology plays a powerful role in the American consciousness.

Frye: I rather regret that the same mythological patterns are present in Canada and yet are paid so little attention to.  We have our city on the hill, namely Quebec, the fort where the river narrows, a fort that was taken and retaken about five or six times.  And we also have our Maccabean victories in the War of 1812 and the Fenian raids later, and so on.  We have all that mythology potentially.  But because the Americans started with a revolution and a Constitution, they brought the myth right into the foreground of their lives in a way that has never happened with Canada.  (CW 24, 892)