Any book review remains an expression of personal opinion so it's a fool's errand to attempt to argue with the verdict of a reviewer. Keith Simanton's piece about our book, Saving Childhood ("The Potential Evils of Mother's Day and Ballet," 9/24), however, contains so many blatant distortions and falsehoods that it requires some response.
At the beginning of the review, for instance, he takes me to task for hypocritically "changing my tune" concerning the movie Amistad, reporting that I attacked it on my radio show but then said I "thought well of the film" on Face the Nation.
The transcripts from CBS are easily available, and I defy Keith to find a single kind word ever spoken by me about this pathetic movie—on Face the Nation or any of the other scores of outlets in which I discussed it. If the TV conversation focused on the irresponsibly inaccurate study guide distributed with the film instead of the movie itself, that was because that particular show featured a debate with the author of that guide.
Similarly, the review's headline, "The Potential Evils of Mother's Day and Ballet," would lead the reader to conclude that along with my wife and co-author, Diane Medved, I entertain some Oedipal fury against maternal appreciation. In truth, the only brief reference to Mother's Day in our entire text occurs in the midst of a plea for schools to accord more respect to the role of parents, where we write: "One of the reasons we dislike the institutions of Mother's Day and Father's Day is that these holidays carry with them the implication that we can pay our debt to our parents one day each year and forget about them the rest of the time. Instead, every day should be Mother's Day, every day should be Father's Day—particularly in our schools." Come now, Keith; is it really fair to suggest that this fleeting two-sentence observation amounts to "warning against the potential evils" of the holiday?
Another typical distortion of our work occurs when Keith accuses us of inconsistency in our emphasis on establishing a sense of place and a secure, consistent home as a means of protecting childhood innocence, while we ourselves hypocritically moved our family. Far from exempting ourselves from our own conclusions and denying the painful impact of moving in our case, we stress it—providing detailed, highly personal descriptions of the "anxiety and downright dread" that change inspired in our three kids.
Keith Simanton is free to dislike our book, or to express contempt for my allegedly "bombastic" and "archconservative" talk show. But I wish he would have tried for the same attention to accuracy and fairness while delivering opinions that we applied to our text, and that I strive (admittedly imperfectly) to achieve on the air every day.
Keith Simanton replies: Michael, my review may have been liberal, nasty, bilious, however you perceive it, but it was not full of "blatant distortions and falsehoods." In your New York Post review of Amistad you said the film was "an honorable, long-overdue attempt by Hollywood to deal seriously with the shame of slavery" and that at times "the movie proves powerful, lyrical, affecting and effective." I didn't have to check the CBS transcripts of Face the Nation, I had taped the show. You stated, "My problem isn't with what Mr. Spielberg has done. . . . My problem isn't with the movie. All movies take liberties with historical facts." You later stated on the show, "I am glad that Mr. Spielberg made the movie." That's a lot different than your KVI assertion, "I don't think that I've ever seen a film that comes quite so far to encouraging racial violence against whites," no matter what the show's topic was or what your interpretation is.
You also know, as a contributing editor to USA Today, that I was not responsible for the header or the kicker of the review highlighting Mother's Day. "Oedipal fury?" My big toe.
But most disheartening in all of this is the fact that the one thing that I hoped to bring out of the article, the thing that you missed, and that I must have failed to convey, was my sense of respect for your intellect, your obvious personal sense of decency, and your success as a father. I felt I had achieved balance and fairness. I strove to show a side of you that had not been covered in our local, and as you're very fond of noting, liberal, media. But the point of my review, the one that I still can't resolve, is my incredulity that this same individual that I'm glad to see come into the theater, this smart, forthright, honorable thinker, can sometimes disappear entirely when championing a conservative cause.
Seattle Opera productions have left me reeling so many times (Aida-in-a-warehouse, an upside-down chair suspended on a bloody wall in the jail cell in Il trovatore, body-builder babe palace guards in Turandot . . .) that I thought I was prepared for anything in Tristan ("Look at Me. Now!" 9/17). I did manage to forgive iffy costumes and golden arches, but the unexpected hissing and sputtering of the Fourth of Julylike flame that leapt up to surround the protagonists in Act II was more than could be borne. That a musical moment so sublime could be so clumsily interrupted is beyond me. Thanks for having the courage to speak out against these trendy production people . . . let's hope theirs is a fashion that will fade.
Leash that Watchdog
I learn from the 9/10 Watchdogs column that John Hamer and Mariana Parks have seen us through to the advent of a Washington News Council, a body to air disputes over accuracy and fairness in media, and that Hamer apparently will administer the council. The news council concept is a good one, but I'm sorry that Parks and Hamer will no longer publish Watchdogs. The Weekly won't be as funny without them.
Watchdogs was sometimes the most unconsciously humorous piece in the paper. Who else would denounce local media for failing to cover a flat-earth believers' convention in Vancouver, where global warming was—so the Watchdogs earnestly told us—exposed as a hoax?
One of my favorite columns was the one in which the Watchdogs were mad at local reporters for ignoring a Seattle lecture (promoted energetically by the Watchdogs) by David Horowitz, the incoherent radical-lefty-turned-radical-righty. And who could match the Watchdogs' pique at journalists' failure to report approvingly on the utterances of Charles Murray, author of The Bell Curve, whose celebrity rests on his assertions that blacks are genetically less intelligent than whites, and who insists all the while that he's not a racist.
It's reassuring that the Watchdogs consider the Washington News Council's founding board as "one of the most ideologically diverse coalitions ever assembled in this state." Certainly there are some excellent people on the board. But wouldn't you know that a group that includes a half-dozen millionaires, a former governor, a labor leader, and a right-wing politician—all white—would appear to Parks and Hamer to be the epitome of diversity?
That seems to me to have been the significant nature of their column from its beginning. It always seemed to have been written by someone so importantly reinforced by the well-heeled that they haven't a clue to what E.W. Scripps was getting at when he told his reporters to "comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable."
Yes, I know, they both claim to have been liberals in some former incarnation. When I hear a journalist make that claim, then profess to have found the light of the conservative truth, I think this is someone who's decided they'll get ahead faster by throwing in with the rich and powerful. Nothing wrong with that, but why discredit everyone who doesn't?
A Washington News Council, modeled after the successful one in Minnesota? A fine idea. But one administered by the watchdog of the right? I have my doubts.
I very much appreciate Seattle Weekly's coverage of growth-related issues, especially Mark Fefer's stories about the county's transportation concurrency controversies (See "Stacking the Deck," 7/30; "The County's Fig Leaf," 8/6; "The Complaint Department Is: Closed," 9/10; "Mixed Traffic Signals," 9/17; "Candy-coated Growth Reform," 9/24).
I would, however, like to point out the reason residents of the East Sammamish community (Plateau) are upset about the road situation up here is not because we have to sit in our air-conditioned sports utility vehicles and luxury cars an extra 30 seconds at some intersections. The reason we are angry with the county is because we have not had a capacity increase to our roadways in 12 years, yet in that same period our population has twice doubled. Not only have we not received the investments in infrastructure to support the growth, but every time the county has made a safety improvement to our over-capacity roadways, those improvements have served to decrease existing capacities.
The fact that we may have to wait an extra 30 seconds to get through an intersection does not offset the fact that cars are backed up for half of a mile waiting to enter the intersection. Indeed, in the morning commute, traffic is backed up for more than 5 miles to get from Sahalee to SR-202 to 520.
It is a well-known fact that a pint cannot hold a quart. The same is true of roads. As a traffic expert in the Greens testified about having a 49-second delay at Sahalee and SR-202 with a 2,514-car queue, "This is the equivalent of putting 14 pounds of sugar into a 10-pound sack. It just can't happen without sugar spilling over the side." Only in real life, the situation isn't so sweet!
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