Whitaker's Current Articles April 3, 2004

April 3, 2004 -- Todays' English is Tomorrow's Latin

April 3, 2004 -- Always Remember that Reporters are NOT Bright

April 3, 2004 --The Media is Three Kinds of Shrewd

April 3, 2004 -- News You Can Use

Fun Quote:

We use the term "poor white trash," but it is not accurate. 

Being poor certainly doesn't make you trash.  Trash is not trash because it is poor.  Most trash is poor because it is trash.

There is lots and lots of rich trash and any non-white person will tell you that all trash is not not white.  They'll give you examples until you get tired of hearing them.


Buy Bob's Book "Why Johnny Can't Think" from Amazon here!

                                    Today's English is Tomorrow's Latin                                                 

My nephew has just started medical school in Moscow.  He was the only American in the class, not a new experience for a member of our family.
Other students asked him why American medical terms are in Latin.  In Western Europe, prescriptions are still written in Latin.  But the other students, most of whom are from the third world, said they did all their medical writing in English.
In the West, the traditional scholarly language was Latin.  But Roman scholars did not write in Latin.  The Roman upper class used Greek.   The expression, "He has no Greek" is from old Rome, indicating a person of lower rank.
We look back to Rome.  Rome looked back to Greece.   The new world looks to America.  An upper class Russian or Malaysian speaks English.
One instructor asked the students in my nephew's class to introduce themselves and say where they were from.  When my nephew said he was from the United States, she said, "We are honored."   If a student at a German university in 1200 AD had said he was from Rome, the instructor might have said, "We are honored."
The Roman Empire has been gone from Western Europe for over 1500 years, but prescriptions are still written in the Roman vernacular (not in Greek).  That is because in the end Rome was not known for being loved, but for accomplishing mighty deeds.
No one will ever have that kind of respect for post-World War II Europe.  Europe knows that and hates us for it.   All of Europe's miserable little welfare politicians will be forgotten before they are buried.  They do nothing anybody cares about.

No one is more critical of the misuse of American power than I am.   But Old Europe makes me sick.  Like most serious inferiority complexes, the European one is in a guise of feeling superior.

Nobody is fooled.  These are little people doing little things who hate a giant for being a giant.  It is accidental when I happen to agree with them, and they make me sick. 

Right or wrong, we are the new Rome.  We made the modern world.

                               Always Remember That Reporters are NOT Bright                             

I have been working with the media for well over forty years.  I had a job with Voice of America when I was  part of the media myself.   I did a short stint as a University station broadcaster.   But mostly I have had to deal with the media, in press conferences, on Capitol Hill, and as an Administration appointee.  Almost everything I did involved the media.
First of all, bless their little hearts, reporters are NOT bright.   Walter Cronkite is about as bright as Jerry Ford, and both of them got to the top the same way.  They do not make anybody else feel inferior.  They are non-threatening.
In "Why Johnny Can't Think, I describe a liberal as somebody who never outgrew his college education.  A totally dependent person who makes it to national news anchor has to be noncreative and a good follower.  Ford and Cronkite were perfect followers.  So Cronkite is a liberal and Ford is a Republican moderate.
It couldn't be any other way..
For me, estimating press intelligent was one of the things I got paid for.  Your press releases have to look smart to them if they are to get where you want them.

But not TOO smart.

So let us step back and see what a reporter actually is.  Here is a person who spends his entire life trying to find five minutes ahead of everybody else what everybody on earth will know tomorrow morning.   That's not much of life.
If you are not particularly bright, you will buy the idea that reporters see history in the making.  Precisely the opposite is the case.  To be a reporter, you have to be obsessed with the present.  Reporters have no historical  perspective at all.  They write for other people who are obsessed with the present.  They only mention any history that serves to make what they they are report sound like it's history.

The media not only doesn't know its history.  It needs no memory at all.   Its readers remember nothing.

See March 13, 2004 -- We Promise, You Forget

But reporters like to tell each other that they are reporting history as it happens.  If you have to make your living dealing with them, you should make full use of this illusion.  I often threw in a historical context that fit into a hundred words and made the present fad seem like a part of the Great Historical Context.
Most high-level media commentators do not know the difference between the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence.   To write history for them, you have to know that.

                                 The Media Is Three Kinds of Shrewd                                                   

Reporters are hopeless provincials because they think they are sophisticated.

Reporters are hopelessly ignorant because they think they are highly knowledgeable.

Reporters think they are highly creative people so you have to do all their creative work for them.

In WhitakerOnline I keep emphasizing the power of the good old Southern expression "Shrewd."   A Shrewd person is one who thinks he brilliant and who is actually a dolt.

Every Southerner in Washington knows that a Yankee will never get over the idea that a Southern accent means that one is naive.  They keep getting run over by Clintons and Carters and Southern senators, but this idea is incurable.
And I LOVE it!
An ignorant Shrewd person differs from the ordinary ignorant person because his ignorance is incurable.   I can explain things to a working man who never finished high school that no paid intellectual can understand.  The working man does not think he knows it already.
The reporter who goes all around the world is absolutely convinced he is sophisticated.  Actually he is among the most provincial people on earth.   He lives inside the press culture.  He is sitting in a bar in Baghdad with other reporters while history is being made a hundred miles away.
A famous example was the Patty Hearst kidnapping in the 1970s.  All the regular reporters were out playing touch football on the lawn of the Hearst estate.  They were waiting for news to come to them.
One reporter went out and got important stuff.
But today the reporters would still be playing out on the lawn with other reporters.  They learn nothing because they think they are already great professionals.  The other reporters tell them so.
And that is the kind of person an editor wants working for him.   All the guys his reporter is playing touch football with know what the editor wants to hear.   They will send him stories he can use.  Scoops are really not all that valuable.   What the editor wants is to fill up space with stuff that was like what his readers wanted to read about last week and the week before.  A real go-getter wouldn't be able to give him that sort of thing consistently.


                                                     News You Can Use                                               

So how can you use all this when you deal with the media?

First of all you must study the Baghdad Bar culture of the media with the same thoroughness that a cultural anthropologist would study a primitive culture in Papua-New Guinea.

You are going to do the reporter's writing for him, so it must fit into the Baghdad Bar Culture.

You give the reporter the history that fits, as I said, so he can make his story sound like history in the making.  It will all be news to him, but you will both pretend he knows it and sees how it all fits the way you say it does.
More important, you write the words you can see in the newspaper.   When you write a press release, you are doing the reporter's work for him.
I got on the front page of the New York Times by doing that.  A reporter was doing a story on young Reagan appointees in 1981.  He came to me and I gave him quotes he could not resist using.  In fact, my quotes got his story on the front page.  He had a picture of me with a file behind me that had a "Bureaucrat and proud of It" bumper sticker on it, exactly what you would not expect a Reagan appointee to have.  My point was that with the right policies, bureaucrats can be proud of what they do.
The problem is that he was doing a report on YOUNG appointees and I was turning 40.  But the stuff I gave him was just too good to exclude so he left my age out.



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