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April 24, 2008


You might think that someone who wrote a column for one of the top newspapers in the country would feel some obligation to ensure that what he wrote bore some relation to reality.

You might indeed think so, provided you haven't read a newspaper for the last twenty years.

Talk about an uphill battle. Still, thanks for fighting it.

I swear I saw Broder at a restaurant in DC one night. He ordered a vodka martini with no olives, and sent it back 3 or 4 times, the last time with an exasperated "there's still vermouth in this!!!"

Uhhh, David, doesn't that just make it a "vodka"?

I stopped reading Broder about 6-8 months ago. I don't even remember what it was that made me stop, except that it was an inanity similar to this. He used to be a respected columnist (I suppose he still is respected by many--though it is no longer deserved). I think he has lost something off the old fastball.

The only sad part is that he has a high profile, national platform. But I too tend to wonder what he is drinking when he writes fiction and portrays it as analysis.

So Broder claimed to want one (reputable) thing while really wanting another (disreputable) thing--and assumed anyone in Washington would understand his little nod-and-wink game?

I find that hard to believe. That it even extends to cocktails, that is.

"I wonder what David Broder does all day. You might think that someone who wrote a column for one of the top newspapers in the country would feel some obligation to ensure that what he wrote bore some relation to reality. Apparently not."

Echoing Johnny Pez, I am trying to think of one columnist who would, on a day in, day out basis fit that description.

Still thinking...
I will get back to you when I think of someone that is still living.

John McCain's principles lasted about as long as his "anti-torture" bill did.

this is interesting from a psychological perspective. i think it show just how much gut-level like/dislike determines how you interpret the world.

broder likes mccain and so bends facts to fit his pre-existing narrative. see also, richard cohen. steve benen has been banging this drum for a while, but it is indeed maddening

"I wonder what David Broder does all day. You might think that someone who wrote a column for one of the top newspapers in the country would feel some obligation to ensure that what he wrote bore some relation to reality. Apparently not."

Echoing Johnny Pez, I am trying to think of one columnist who would, on a day in, day out basis fit that description.

William Raspberry, Paul Krugman, Harold Meyerson, E. J. Dionne, Jon Carroll, Fred Kaplan, Tim Noah.

Note: "would feel some obligation to ensure that what he wrote bore some relation to reality" does not mean "every word is correct and true."

Hilzoy: Honestly: I wonder what David Broder does all day.

Why should he do much of anything all day? He's the "Dean of Washington Pundits". His opinions are important enough that he gets paid an inordinate amount to write them down, regardless of whether they have any connection to reality or logical consistency. Nice work if you can get it.

I'm more interested in why, or maybe whether, anyone cares what he thinks. I presume you do because you think others do. But why do they pay any attention? Or do they? I never did until folks like you directed my outrage that way. Does Broder have a constituency outside "the Village", or a readership outside them and the disgusted West Blogistanis? Do you think anybody else picks up the Post and frantically flips to the OpEd section to see whether there's a New Broderian Truth there? I guess the Post thinks so, given how much they pay him to fill up those column-inches.

But all Broder has to do is go on drinking his vodka-vokda martinis and emitting his gilded flatulence, all the while reveling in the fact that he's a Very Important Part of the Village. Clever guy to have carved out that niche in the world, as long as he doesn't look in the mirror.

I care because he's saying things about McCain that just aren't so. I wouldn't have mentioned it if he had been talking about someone who wasn't running for President.

OT: Apparently, these are illustrations from Amanda Marcotte's new book. Did she, um, not look at them or something?

Sheesh. (h/t matttbastard)

Apparently, these are illustrations from Amanda Marcotte's new book. Did she, um, not look at them or something?

There's nothing there now, at least if the link is correct. Sorry I missed it.

Not to mention that McCain's own campaign manager Rick Davis is setting up a "victory fund" that will allow donors to evade the usual $2300 limits set by McCain/Feingold and donate $70,000 to be spent on McCain's behalf.

McCain's. Own. Campaign. Manager.

Straight talk, "personal credibility", you betcha.

Don S: huh. It still works for me.

Her book is called "It's a Jungle Out There". The illustrations are, I think, from some old comic book. The art has Africans in masks in the roles you might expect in a comic book from, oh, the 40s about jungles: dancing in silly-looking ways, being kicked down by Our Heroine, etc.

"Don S: huh. It still works for me."

Me, too.

"The illustrations are, I think, from some old comic book."

Here is the copyright page. "Cover and interior illustrations, LORNA, THE JUNGLE GIRL, ® & © 2008 Marvel Characters, Inc. Used with permission."

The back cover also clearly states the same.

Lorna first appeared in July, 1953. More from Don Markstein.

Are gorillas out, too?

I'm back with names but I see gary beat me to it. I agree with all of his except Krugman, who lately has gone off on a trip to some kind of parallel reality. Actually, still 90% in the real world, which is more than most.

I posted a comment about the illustrations last night. It would be nice to see it released from the trap, as per my email request of yesterday. Thanks.

Hilzoy, your post reminds me of this one by Chris Anderson at daily kos:

- - - - - -

David Broder held a chat today on the Washington Post web site. In the very first Q&A he reveals the core of what Atrios has called High Broderism.

Chaska, Minn.: As a political pundit how do you calibrate your perceptions on mainstream America? The reason I ask this is based on your recent columns. My guess is your views (as a lot of the Beltway punditry) is very skewed. Poll after poll validates that American values align with progressive positions on such issues as the Iraq war, abortion, Social Security and even health care. In fact, it's not really the left-wing of the Democratic party's views that are being subverted by the Republican agenda, but mainstream America's views. So why keep insisting on bipartisan compromises when those views don't reflect the wishes of a large majority of Americans? Do we really need to be held hostage to the selfish interest of a minority in this country? Because that is where we are now.

David S. Broder: Good afternoon, everyone. I look forward to spending the next hour with you. This first letter from Minnesota challenges the conventional wisdom by asserting that the country overwhelmingly supports the liberal agenda, both at home and abroad. I have to disagree. I think the country is closely balanced, with a controlling group in the center that rejects extreme positions and seeks practical solutions drawn from the agendas of both liberals and conservatives. Most Americans I meet are not ideologues of any sort; they are practical people seeking practical solutions to real challenges.

- - - - - -

A perfect example of Broder's ... what shall we call it ... inability to comprehend facts, skewed view, alternate plane of reality, analysis by personal anecdote.

My thanks to whomever released this comment.

What Jes quotes Charlie as saying regarding book covers is entirely correct, of course (trivial procedural differences between publishers aside).

I couldn't get Jes's link to work, for some reason, but
here was Marcotte posting the cover in Februrary.

I have to say that I'm unclear what might be offensive about it. But possibly the offense is either: a) using old Lorna illustrations as interior illustrations; or b) using the whole "jungle" metaphor.

Hilzoy, perhaps you could expand on what you think of all this? Your question doesn't make your opinion terribly clear. Are there specific illustrations that seem racist? Or is it the whole metaphor that might have been better avoided? Or?

Are there specific illustrations that seem racist? Or is it the whole metaphor that might have been better avoided?

Yes, and yes. Specific illustrations of the White Superheroine knocking down the Silly Black Natives. That, plus the metaphor, plus Marcotte's [apparent (*)]previous tin ear towards racial issues combine to set off some righteous protests.

(*) I don't follow Pandagon, so I can't say how accurate the accusations of the tin ear are.

Amanda on the book cover; Seal Press on the">http://www.sealpress.net/blog/2008/04/public-apology.php">the book cover.

Jes: I thought (based on some experience) that authors get to approve art, and page proofs, and stuff. Also, that she would look at those page proofs, and also that she would, or should, see what was wrong with the pictures, or at least that they would provoke a controversy that is (I assume) unrelated to her actual book. And not one of those "good" controversies, either.

Good for her for apologizing. Good for Seal for apologizing to her. But how those pictures ended up in the book -- ??

Jes: I thought (based on some experience) that authors get to approve art, and page proofs, and stuff.

My experience of pro publishing (outside the realms of information resources where I am literally both production manager and author) is minimal: but I cited Charles Stross as the author who most recently said something I've heard as a basic fact of commercial publishing for decades: The writer doesn't get to approve the artwork. If the writer is lucky, they may get to see the cover artwork/illustrations before the book is published.

The writer does get to look over page proofs, but their input at that stage is to correct errors in the text, not to change illustrations. (It's different, I presume, if the writer owns the copyright of the illustrations - photos or drawings.)

It may well be different for academic books: but for ordinary commercial publishing, I have never heard of any author who had any control over what the publisher chose to use to put on the cover or illustrate the text. J. K. Rowling maybe.

"If taken seriously as a representation of our intentions, these images are also not very feminist. By putting the big blonde in the skimpy bathing suit with the big breasts, the tiny waist, and the weapon on our cover, we are also not asserting that she is any kind of standard that anyone should aspire to. This 1950s Marvel comic is not an accurate reflection of our beauty standards, our beliefs regarding one's right to bear arms, nor our perspectives on race relations, foreign policy, or environmental policy."

I think that almost covers it.

But the problem would seem to be with the idea of going with a "campy" pulp/old comics notion, and quoting the imagery, since of course such images are the opposite of being constructed with the intent of endorsing any political/gender/etc. views.

My read is that the context of the republishing and repurposing clearly indicate that the intent is ironic, rather than identical to that of the original creators, but, of course, that doesn't remove room for offense.

"Jes: I thought (based on some experience) that authors get to approve art,"

In mass market publishing, only very rarely, and only if the author absolutely insists, and is such a huge name that the publisher can't avoid it. Stephen King, sure. Someone not getting at least a $100,000 advance? No.

Authors aren't publishers, and often don't know much about how to sell a book. They're writers, not publishers. Their decisions about packaging are not always apt to be good ones, from the point of view of the publisher, and inserting a stage or stages in the production process where much production would have to be delayed while the author approved, or, god forbid, disapproved, and things would have to start over again at some earlier stage in the execution or concept -- would be potentially extremely costly. Costly to the point where it could easily make the difference between profit and loss for a midlist writer's book.

So, no, that's not general practice. As a courtesy, mass market authors are sent cover proofs, a couple or few months before the book is manufactured and released, but that's just an early look at what's done; minor retouching changes might then happen, but major changes in the cover art would be unusual, and it still wouldn't be a matter of authorial privilege.

"and page proofs, and stuff."

Page proofs rarely contain illustrations; typically page proofs are just type, since their purpose is to have the type corrected; adding illustrations at that point would make it far more expensive to make text changes, and would pretty much defeat the purpose of having proofs, as a rule. (I'm not talking about promotional galleys, which are somewhat different in purpose, being primarily a promotional tool, but which also may or may not have illustrations/photos.)

"But how those pictures ended up in the book -- ??"

They're straight reproductions; it seems to me that if there's a problem here, it stemmed from the decision to go with the concept "It's a Jungle Out There." What sort of metaphoric images does that draw on, after all, but European imperialistic expansionism and conquest, and the fight to bring "civilization" to the Jungle?

Once you've gone that way with your title, the theme and illustrations easily flow directly from it. So it looks to me as if the problem is the base concept, not the details of the execution of precisely which type of "camp"/pulp/comic Sheena/Lorna/She image you go with to illustrate the metaphor.

If there were any pulps or comics from the 1900s through the 1950s that published non-imperialist non-European feminist non-politically-offensive strong imagery that could be drawn upon for alternatives, I'd be interested to hear about them.

But absent such as an available alternative set of imagery for "camp image of strong Woman Of The Jungle," maybe the error is in having picked a problematic metaphor.

Another thought on how: anyone familiar with comics or pulps is perfectly familiar with this imagery. In one of those posts of Amanda's, I saw her make reference to having a fondness for pulp and comics imagery. So I find it unsurprising that someone familiar for years or decades with old comics or pulps would simply forget that someone unfamiliar with them, and looking to take away a political meaning to them, would see them with a completely different eye, and be shocked, rather than just say, "oh, another Sheena variant."

And, of course, clearly the intent was to be ironic. But that's always tough.

Might I suggest that a new thread about this. As horrible as Amanda's error is, no way does she deserve to be classed with Broder. (smileys all around)

Shorter me: the concept of "it's a jungle out there" seems to me to stem directly from the European experience of "the jungle" as representing The Other.

Once you've picked that as your title/metaphor, you're already in Problem Land.

It's hardly surprising -- to me, anyway -- that, having gone that way, most any direction leads one to representations of racism and imperialism.

Should Seal Press have realized that this wouldn't fly as irony? Sure, but I think the place to nip it was with the title metaphor, rather than by the time they got to picking specific illustrations. That should have been caught at an editorial meeting when the title was okayed, if we're going to point to a stage where I think it makes sense to be critical.

And I wouldn't put it on Amanda; as I said, it's not the writer's job to know how to market the book, and that includes the title, as well. It was Seal Press that screwed up.

And they did screw up, since anything that generates this kind of kerfuffle and publicity isn't good.

Amanda should have gone with Phantom Lady. Wait--maybe not.

Yeah, who would you use as your non-stereotype-invoking yet-still-asskicking and cheap enough for a small publisher to get the rights to (i.e., no Wonder Woman) superheroine from old comic books? Miss America? Blonde Phantom?

Probably the additional fantasy elements of Red Sonja wouldn't make much difference, but the character comes to mind. Jirel of Joiry is probably too esoteric to work into a popular metaphor.

Maybe better to drop the whole pulp/comics idea, and go with, say, something inspired by, I don't know, The Female Man?

But I've not read Amanda's book, or hardly anything about it, so I'm hardly in a position to be making creative suggestions, I'm afraid.

I'm not sure either, Justin, but if she is anything like me and had that toonpedia.com link that you gave, she would not have gotten anything done.

Gary linked to it first--it's an excellent timewaster. I mean, resource.

"Miss America? Blonde Phantom?"

Without doubt, the choice of Power Girl would have avoided all possible controversy.

Or something with Mary Jane Watson?

"Gary linked to it first--it's an excellent timewaster. I mean, resource."

Just to mention trivia, Don Markstein and I traded fanzines and letters of comment on each other's fanzines in the early Seventies, and later crossed paths in person in Phoenix in 1978.

Certainly his expertise in comics history is notable.

Whoops! h/t to Gary.

btw, does anyone know a similar resource for translated versions of Japanese manga? Short version, trying to deal with weaker students, and hoping to utilize English translations of manga that they may have read or are at least familiar with. I have a number of sites that I will try and list up at TiO, where a placeholder post resides.

LJ, the subject of translations is covered fairly regularly by Dirk Deppey at Journalista. I think he's got an archive link; if not, search for "scanlation".

Not sure it's worth another thread. And I'm glad to learn that my own experiences about cover art would probably have been unlike Amanda's. (It's not that I chose the cover of my book; just that I think they would have let me veto it.)

"(It's not that I chose the cover of my book; just that I think they would have let me veto it.)"

If it was an academic publisher, they have a rather different process from mass market publishing. Kinda by definition, the cover is far less important as a sales tool for non-mass-market books.

If your sales are primarily retail point-of-purchase, on the other hand, the cover is your primary advertising tool. It's too important to leave in the hands of the author.

I notice, incidentally, that the Seal Press blog post now includes this:

UPDATE: Please note that, upon reflection, we realize that the second to the last paragraph of this post doesn't do a good job of conveying our intended meaning. We do not want to delete it, but we do want to make a note around our intent, since its purpose was to further articulate the "what were they thinking?" question. We apologize that this paragraph undermines our apology. We acknowledge that the images are racist and not okay under any circumstances. We are wholeheartedly sincere in our apology, and the actions we've laid out above will be acted upon immediately.
Seal also, incidentally, was recently beaten up over this.

The cover of Marcotte's book may be less shocking if one has spent decades being familar with this sort of thing.

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