Frank Rich's Pornographic Hypocrisy - June 1, 2004 -

Times Watch for June 1, 2004

Frank Rich's Pornographic Hypocrisy

Editor Frank Rich's "It Was the Porn That Made Them Do It" is a contemptuous dismissal of social conservatives who dare link the prisoner abuse of Abu Ghraib to excessive exposure to pornography: "Some of our self-appointed moral leaders are defending the morally indefensible by annexing Abu Ghraib as another front in America's election-year culture war. Charles Colson, the Watergate felon turned celebrity preacher, told a group of pastors convened by the Family Research Council that the prison guards had been corrupted by 'a steady diet of MTV and pornography.' The Concerned Women for America site posted a screed by Robert Knight, of the Culture and Family Institute, calling the Abu Ghraib scandal the 'Perfect Storm' of American cultural depravity' in which porn, especially gay porn, gave soldiers 'the idea to engage in sadomasochistic activity and to videotape it in voyeuristic fashion.'"

Then he gives Mel Gibson's "sadomasochistic" movie another beating: "The hypocrisy of those pushing this line knows few bounds. They choose to ignore the reality that the most popular images of sadomasochism in American pop culture this year have been those in 'The Passion of the Christ,' an R-rated 'religious' movie that many Americans took their children to see, at times with clerical blessings. Mel Gibson's relentlessly violent, distinctly American take on Jesus' martyrdom is a more exact fit for what's been acted out in Abu Ghraib than the flouncings of any cheesy porn-video dominatrix."

(What's with the quote marks around "religious"? Is Rich really doubting Gibson's religious conviction? Like his movie or not, the expensive venture was in many ways an ultimate act of faith.)

Rich continues: "As Luc Sante and Susan Sontag have pointed out, the photographs from Abu Ghraib themselves have a nearly exact historical antecedent in those touristy snapshots of shameless Americans posing underneath the victims of lynchings for decades after the Civil War." The piece is accompanied by a photo from a lynching in '30s Indiana.

Perhaps Rich should have spared a minute from his self-righteous conservative-bashing to actually read the Sontag article he selectively cites (which graced the front cover of last Sunday's Times magazine).

Because the left-wing Sontag, so admired by Rich, makes precisely the same argument ("porn made them do it") that Rich mocks so acidly when it emerges from the mouths of conservatives: "But most of the pictures seem part of a larger confluence of torture and pornography: a young woman leading a naked man around on a leash is classic dominatrix imagery. And you wonder how much of the sexual tortures inflicted on the inmates of Abu Ghraib was inspired by the vast repertory of pornographic imagery available on the Internet-and which ordinary people, by sending out Webcasts of themselves, try to emulate."

Why is it ridiculous and hypocritical for conservatives to make the argument, but not for left-wing Sontag?

For the full Rich, click here.

" Abu Ghraib | Columnists | Gaffes | Mel Gibson | Movies | "The Passion" | Pornography | Prisoners | Frank Rich | Susan Sontag

Not Liking "Ike"

TV critic Alessandra Stanley dislikes Ike-or at least the A&E Memorial Day movie "Ike" starring Tom Selleck as the World War II general Dwight Eisenhower during the run-up to D-Day.

In "Macho Swagger Overpowers D-Day Valor," Stanley asserts: "Lionel Chetwynd, an executive producer and the writer, is a conservative Hollywood filmmaker who frequently decries what he describes as a widespread liberal conspiracy in Hollywood. He made 'Hanoi Hilton' in 1987 and wrote last year's television paean to President Bush, 'DC 9/11: Time of Crisis.' Mr. Chetwynd's 'Ike' is veined with the defensive self-righteousness that many conservatives expressed about the Vietnam war and now Iraq."

Now, does Chetwynd really go around talking about "liberal conspiracies"-or is that merely Stanley's way to discredit Chetwynd's actual argument-that Hollywood is full of liberals? (Which would seem to make it unnecessary for them to "conspire" in the first place.)

Stanley tends to get irritated whenever the rare Bush-supporting entertainment figure pipes up with the obvious: That liberals dominate media and entertainment.

For the rest of Stanley's thumbs-down for "Ike," click here.

" Lionel Chetwynd | Dwight Eisenhower | Hollywood | Television | Alessandra Stanley

Back to Abu Ghraib

All roads lead back to Abu Ghraib. Monday's story by Eric Schmitt, "Army Is Investigating Reports of Assaults and Thefts by GI's Against Iraqi Civilians," contains this subhead, which subliminally hooks the unrelated investigations to the prisoner abuse scandal at Abu Ghraib: "Officials struggle to understand the scope of American abuses."

Schmitt's story makes the "connection" explicit: "The Army is investigating at least two dozen cases in which American soldiers are accused of assaulting civilian Iraqis or stealing their money, jewelry and other property during raids, patrols and house-to-house searches, senior Defense Department officials said Sunday".Those statistics and broad descriptions are included in an internal summary prepared earlier this month by the investigation command at the request of senior Army officials who are struggling to understand the scope of mistreatment and potential crimes committed by American soldiers in Iraq beyond the abuses at Abu Ghraib prison and other Army-run detention sites."

For the rest of Schmitt on the investigation of U.S. soldiers in Iraq, click here.

" Abu Ghraib | Iraq War | Prisoners | Eric Schmitt

The Times' Go-Slow Approach to Terror

Saturday's story by Eric Lichtblau, "FBI Issues and Retracts Urgent Terrorism Bulletin," features another accusation of the Bush administration allegedly politicizing terror threats.

The apparent gaffe by the FBI gives Lichtblau an opportunity to dredge up a liberal accusation against Ashcroft: "The alert was issued two days after Attorney General John Ashcroft warned at a news conference that the United States had received credible intelligence that Al Qaeda was planning to attack the United States in the coming months. Some federal officials and terrorism experts questioned the credibility and the timing of the announcement, noting that much of Mr. Ashcroft's information had been widely disseminated for months."

But Lichtblau doesn't quote any of these experts. Nor did he in the last story he cowrote (with Richard Stevenson) on the subject, a story that also suggested Ashcroft was playing politics.

Note that these stories come less than two months after the hard-to-please Times excoriated the Bush administration's apparent pre-9-11 passivity regarding terror threats. What do they want from Bush?

For the rest of Lichtblau on the FBI mistake, click here.

No Democratic Campaign Finance Hypocrites?

A Saturday A1 story by Glen Justice, "Republicans Rush to Form New Finance Groups," leads off with this bit of anti-Republican spin: "After months spent trying to shut down Democratic advocacy groups that have raised tens of millions of dollars in unlimited contributions to support Senator John Kerry, Republicans are scrambling to set up similar organizations to collect donations to help President Bush."

Later, Justice lets Democrats make a hypocrisy charge: "Democrats say the Republican rush to embrace 527's is hypocritical, but do not doubt it will be effective."

But what of the hypocrisy on the part of Democrats, who in 2002 pushed Bush into signing campaign finance reform into law but are now eagerly pouring oodles of accursed "soft money" into anti-Bush organizations like

For the full story by Glen Justice on Republican "527s," click here.

" 527s | Campaign 2004 | Campaign Finance | Glen Justice

Reading Minds In Baghdad

Saturday's story by Warren Hoge and Steven Weisman, "Surprising Choice Reflects U.S. Influence" deals with the selection of Iyad Alawi, a Shiite, as prime minister of Iraq.

The story leads off by mind-reading Iraqis on how they feel about the Alawi appointment (particularly impressive, since neither Hoge nor Weisman are based in Iraq): "After turning to the United Nations to shore up its failing effort to fashion a new government in Baghdad, the United States ended up Friday with a choice for prime minister certain to be seen more as an American candidate than one of the United Nations or the Iraqis themselves."

How "certain" can Hoge and Weisman be about this? They provide no follow-up details to make the case, only quotes from U.N. officials.

The next paragraph reads: "The man chosen to be prime minister, Iyad Alawi, is the secretary general of the Iraqi National Accord, an exile group that has received funds from the Central Intelligence Agency. His ties with the C.I.A., and his closeness to the United States could become an issue in a country where public opinion has grown almost universally hostile to the Americans."

If the Times has any say in the matter, it likely will.

For the full story on Iraq's new prime minister, click here.

" Iyad Alawi | Warren Hoge | Iraq War | Steven Weisman