The Fish
for 13 July 1998. Updated every WEEKDAY.
Suck Staff

Joey Anuff
Joey Anuff
Editor in Chief


Terry Colon
Terry Colon
Art Director


[the fixin' pixie... ]
Emily Hobson
Production Manager
and Rhythm Guitar


Heather Havrilesky
Heather Havrilesky
Senior Editor


[Ian Connelly]
Ian Connelly
Marketing Manager


[Copy Edit]
Copy Edit

Suck Alumni
Suck Alumni Text

Carl Steadman
Carl Steadman


Ana Marie Cox
Ana Marie Cox
Executive Editor


Sean (Duuuuude) Welch
Sean Welch


Owen Thomas
Owen Thomas
Copy Editor


T. Jay Fowler

Production Manager

& Ass Kicker


[yes, it's a plunger. i'll l
eave the rest up to your imagination ... ]
Erin Coull
Production Manager


Matt Beer
Matt Beer
Development Manager

Nerve Damage

I'm sure you've seen by now
that CNN has retracted its
report on Operation Tailwind,
following the report it
received from Floyd Abrams. I
remembered the messages you
sent after we wrote about
their report, and - for
whatever it's worth - wanted
to say that I'd seen the
retraction. Not much to say
about it, except the obvious:
It's an awful thought that a
news organization with such a
broad reach would be so
reckless with such a damaging
story. Nothing to do about it
but be much more skeptical
about the news in the future,
which is a sorry thought.

Also, to see the producers
involved in the story fired
or forced to resign, while
Peter Arnett receives a
"reprimand" - that one's
awfully hard to understand.
How can he do credible
reporting now?

Not many institutions worth
trusting, it seems.

In any case, I was wrong. Be

Ambrose Beers

Fish With Letter Icon

Ke aloha no!

I was surprised, but pleased,
to hear from you.

I agree on firing Arnett. The
thing that leapt out from
Abrams' report was the
significance attributed to
gas masks. If you're going to
be exposed to
organophosphates you need
skin protection, too. An old
hand like Arnett ought to
have picked up on that.

I was talking to my editor at
The Maui News about Patricia
Smith, the Boston Globe
faker, a couple days ago and
said if I had been editor I
would not have allowed her a
farewell column. He said, "I
wouldn't have let her resign.
That's a firing offense."

Since I have been fired for a
sin as venial as insulting
chiropractors, I can only
agree with him. The big
issue, to me, is information
overload, but in a different
sense from what is usually
thought. Reporters are
required to know enough to
draw conclusions about such
recondite questions as when
to ignore prostate cancer or
how often women should have
mammograms - if only to
decide whether a story is
there or not.

We can't manage it, of
course, but when I started in
the business more than 30
years ago, that level of
knowledge wasn't expected.
Nothing stresses me more than
to be told to write a
deadline piece involving
(real example) the
fishing-permit policy of
Kiribati. You cannot be an
expert on everything.

My objection is that too many
younger reporters aren't
expert on anything. Nor were
us older guys. The difference
is, we knew it. Some were
proud of it.

I was astounded to learn that
CNN worked eight months on
its story and prepared a
150-page briefing book. It's
a luxury when I have eight
days to work on a takeout
story (one that is supposed
to present the background,
current problems, and future
options complete). If I ever
had eight months to report on
war gases, I can promise you
I'd know them backward and
forward by the end of the
first month.

A second point. Garrison
Keillor once said, "Let's
face it, folks, television is
an experiment that failed."

The supposed watchword of the
tough reporter - "If your
mother says she loves you,
check it out" - is phony as
hell. I've never known
anybody who worked that way.
The trick is to know which
unsupported statements are
plausible and can be
accepted, and which others
need more careful handling. I
don't mind if a reporter goes
at a story with an agenda -
as April Oliver did, and as I
do all the time - but I've
been grateful many times to
have an editor who doesn't
give a rat's ass for my
agenda. I've had stories
spiked, stories returned for
a complete re-reporting.


Fish With Letter Icon

Señor Beers,

Advance apologies for being
obtuse, but what was the
point of the "Nerve Damage"
piece? It's no news that all
the infotainment engines like
CNN pursue new markets at the
expense of journalism. It's
no surprise that LBJ's and
Nixon's administrations were
duplicitous and bloody. Who
hasn't heard the one about
government and industry
acting in collusion to
defraud and exploit

Can one honestly censure the
Swiss for being stingy and
wary of a political solution?
They're neutrals, for pete's
sake. Do you ever expect
anything but half-ass
apologies from anyone who
remains consistently neutral
in the face of every
conflict? The Swiss have been
accessories to every major
government swindle for
generations. Shame on you for
only bringing the Swiss to
task because the Nazis were
involved. How bout going to
bat for those railroaded in
banana republics?

Schanberg is wrong even if he
did get a Pulitzer - "We
Americans" aren't the
"ultimate innocents." He, and
morally dishonest and
disingenuous liberals like him,
who believe in Big
Government, are ...

I hope we never forget what
happened in Vietnam. Those
with consciences ought to
know better than to trust
those without: LBJ, Nixon,
and their assorted cabinet
pols - didn't most of them find a way
to avoid doing their duty
when their country was at
war? Not that war is
justifiable - but it shows
that the signs were always
there. Every political cause
is a con - and always will

Chant the "don't trust the
media, don't trust the
government" mantra every
other day (get well Terry!),
just try and have a point.
Particularly a funny one.
Nothing cuts nationalistic
self-loathing like proof that
more of our blunders are
silly more than they
are violent. Do more
stuff about monkeys too.
Monkeys are funny. Especially
monkeys in jockey costumes
riding pigs or greyhounds.

metaphors be with you,


Monkeys in jockey costumes
riding pigs: gotcha. Thanks
for the tip!

Fish With Letter Icon

You Americans Are So ...

I saw your pages today for
the first time - interesting
... you have made the
American dream complete:
Where the regular, consuming
and beer-drinking fellow is
the hero, and his values are
not questioned, as it would
be a crime next to treason
... the trend in the States
nowadays seems to a European
to be favoring individuality
above all, having created a
new, regular, next-door pal
as the model of an
end-of-the-century standard
American. Today it seems like
wit, sarcasm, criticism,
society-sensitivity, and "I'm
not like the next guy" are
the new standards. I don't
know how it is once you get
there - the States, I mean -
but that certainly is the
idea the Americans are
giving, the image. Perhaps
because the material we get
is originated in big cities
like New York or LA.... New
order, mildish anarchy on the
Net, and pirate-like
publishings are soooo popular
... but after all, what is
America but a dream come
true, the biggest, always
popular consensus under the
sun, a free country. Here in
Scandinavia we don't have to
be so sarcastic to be
considered intelligent and
our criticism toward
society is perhaps more
openly expressed. Our
"undergroundish" pages on the
Web concentrate more on other
things. Summa summarum, I
subscribed to your THING
today, and expect many more
stimulating subjects to
arise. Keep up the

Irene Telaranta

In Scandinavia, you have to
chip your way through a wall
of solid ice every morning
just to go to the corner
store for some lox! We have
no doubt that you're a
well-read group whose
criticisms toward society
are more openly expressed! We
Americans have hot dogs to
eat and ice-cold cheap beer
to drink and pools to do the
Nestea plunge into -
criticizing society just
slips our minds for days on

Just like the guy next door,
only uglier,


Fish With Letter Icon

Hey Ambrose,

Didn't I read this article
last week in the letters

You must be kidding that "...
other cultures work at
cleaning up after a bloody
patch of history with
contrition and handshakes."
Japan's public school
textbooks rarely mention
Japanese atrocities in Asia
or Pearl Harbor. Germany's
continual (and welcome, of
course) hand-wringing over
the Holocaust is the
exception, not the rule, and
in that case was established
at gunpoint, not through the
goodness of their hearts.

Good quotes on Tonkin et al.,
but you missed the boat on
this one. The debate about
Tailwind was just that, and
after many (including you)
hopped on board allegations
of US nerve gas use, it turns
out that there's no credible
evidence that it happened.
Pointing out that Johnson was
a prick is irrelevant.

Shawn Metcalf

The fact that Japan's efforts
at contrition are few, lame,
and grudging don't mean that
they aren't acts of
contrition. They're trying to
get off on the cheap, but
they're still trying to get
off the hook. Unless you
think the story about
reparations is entirely made
up. You do acknowledge that
paying reparations is an act
of contrition, yes?

Also, Germany is no longer at
gunpoint, and the recent
apology for Guernica can
hardly be said to have been
coerced. Note that, when they
were at gunpoint, at least a
few Nazi officers - who were
certainly more responsible
for Guernica and for every other
German atrocity in WWII than
the members of the current
German parliament, who did
the apologizing - were
entirely unapologetic. "I was
just following orders" is the
slightly oversimple but not
really inaccurate way we
remember their defense.

I understand your argument
that the debate over Tailwind
was just a debate over
Tailwind, and I can see
viewing it that way. But let
me try one more time with
this. An example, and a short
restatement of the argument:
The Los Angeles Times
reported, a few months ago -
during the height of our
renewed conflict with Iraq
over their possession of
nerve gas - that the United States had
helped Iraq to coordinate
nerve gas attacks during the
Iran-Iraq War. Remember the
firestorm of controversy and
discussion over that story?
Of course you don't - it
didn't happen.

So: We find out the
government lied to us, and we
have nothing to say. And then
we find out the government
lied to us, and we have
nothing to say. And then we
find out the government lied
to us, and we have nothing to
say. And then we find out the
government lied to us, and we
have nothing to say. And then
we find out the media lied to
us, and we go crazy: I'll
never believe those people

I really, honestly can't see
that pattern as an accident.

Ambrose Beers

Fish With Letter Icon

Dear Ambrose,

Gosh I love that Hemingway
guy. He sure could write.
Yup. Sure could. And it was
good. A quibble for ya. We
aren't actually represented
in our government so much as
we are slurried into an
aggregate. As Mencken said:
"Democracy is the proposition
that the average man deserves
representation, and he
deserves to get it good and
hard" (corrections

Jack Garman

Hemingway and Mencken ...
makes you want to drink
whiskey and arm wrestle,
doesn't it?

Off to Cuba ...

Ambrose Beers

Fish With Letter Icon

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