July 20, 2004 | UPDATE
Meryl Streep as Karen Hughes in The Manchurian Candidate?
(A Revisionist Look at Recent Headlines)
by Maureen Farrell
Last month, on June 14, the Drudge Report featured the headline ‘Meryl as Hillary in the Manchurian Candidate?’ And certainly, with the remake of the Manchurian Candidate premiering on July 30, it’s not surprising that the film is making headlines. But, as is often the case with Matt Drudge’s site, the headline itself, which was linked to a story entitled "Meryl Streep’s Hillary Problem," wreaked of smarmy speculation. The story, written by the obviously well-credentialed "A Fly on the Wall," read, in part:
Of course, it is quite possibly true that Paramount is worried that Meryl Streep modeled her performance after Hillary Clinton. Yet, in April, the actress told Entertainment Weekly that to prepare for her role as Raymond Shaw's cold and manipulative mother, Mrs. Iselin (the role Angela Lansbury made unforgettable in the original), she watched a string of political talk shows. ''Anything with Peggy Noonan, Karen Hughes," she said. "It's hard to get more hyperbolic than that." Adding that "there are lots of little subtleties in how people spin and push their point of view," Streep also noted, ala Mr. Fly on the Wall, that "jewelry is very important as well."
But times being what they are, and political infotainment being what it is, who cares about such "six degrees" type trivia? The Drudge-linked piece was merely a vehicle to bash Hillary Clinton and infer that Democrats would invoke the wrath of God or Louis B. Mayer or, well, whoever it is they might invoke. "The studio's motives in requesting the de-Hillaryization are because of a feared backlash," the story asserted, before quoting an anonymous "insider" who said, "They don't want to look like they're Democrat-bashing." (Wonder if the studio was afraid of the same thugs who strong-armed CBS into yanking The Reagans?)
Oddly enough, however, a recent piece in Newsmax chronicled FOX News’ Monica Crowley’s observations on Meryl Streep’s behavior at the recent Kerry-Edwards "hatefest," where her anti-Bush "outburst" ("as offensive as [Whoopie] Goldberg's," the article noted) significantly weakened the Drudge-linked scoop. What, one wonders, was Streep doing at a Democratic fund raiser, bashing Bush, if she thinks so little of Mrs. Clinton? Did she really mimic Hillary? Or should we take the actress at her word and look for Karen Hughes and Peggy Noonan behind Mrs. Iselin’s icy eyes?
The July 26 issue of Newsweek lays the matter to rest. Though Streep revealed that she "did have some models for the role," when asked, said laughed and said, "Never mind," while admitting that, "Fox News would love if I were doing Hillary, but that's so off the mark."
Admittedly, however, in the world of recent journalistic sins, spreading movie-based political gossip is relatively harmless. After all, it’s doubtful that any U.S. soldiers will die thanks to speculation about Ms. Streep’s hairdo.
Nevertheless, people often come away from Drudge’s rumor-mongering certain they’re getting the honest-to-goodness truth, which, as any sentient being now realizes, has not been delivered in far too many mediums for far too long. Remember the cable news networks’ propaganda-laced "Countdowns to Iraq?" Or most of President Bush’s televised speeches?
In fact, things have gotten so surreal that Daily Show host and "fake news" anchor Jon Stewart, who repeatedly trumps the mainstream media (in terms of insight, anyway), recently asked CNN’s Wolf Blitzer if the press corps was suffering from "group think" or "retardation."
So, yes, not only do we have to deal with lame news and even lamer newscasters, it seems that even the stories about political infotainment are either ridiculously questionable or strangely and sadly misguided. And while Drudge’s Hillary headline tops the list, other headlines ripped from the blurred world of entertainment/music/sports and politics over the past few years are just as "retarded."
For your consideration, then, here are 10 personal favorites, alongside their more accurate (albeit mostly fake) revisions:
Retarded Headline #1:
On Rockin' in the Free World: Why Don Rumsfeld became a star."
in the Free World: Why Don Rumsfeld became a ‘Pariah’"
Remember when CNN described Donald Rumsfeld as "a virtual rock star"? Or when FOX News deemed him a "babe magnet"? How about when Claudia Rosett, a member of the Wall Street Journal’s editorial board, dubbed him the "new hunk of home-front" and "one the classiest acts on camera"?
It’s difficult to know whether or not "sniveling sycophant" was listed in any of these "journalists" job descriptions, but those terms of endearment were small beans compared to the fawning adoration the National Review’s Jay Nordlinger heaped upon our Secretary of Defense. Asking, "Who’s the star of this war so far?" (Don Rumsfeld, of course), Nordlinger fed into the "sex symbol" hoopla and blurred political and wartime realities with entertainment and showmanship to the point of parody. On Dec. 31, 2001, he wrote that Rumsfeld:
Though Nordiger also wrote that, "Nearly everyone — Republican or Democrat — sees [Rumsfeld] as the right guy at the right time in the right job," on July 15, 2004, AOL News quoted Loren Thompson of the Lexington Institute, saying: "Donald Rumsfeld has gone from being the most popular spokesperson for the Bush administration policies to something of a pariah."
And, on the very same day that AOL was describing ways Rumsfeld was "Burdened by the Iraq prisoner abuse scandal," Salon.com was delving deeper. "Some of the worst things that happened you don't know about," Salon quoted Seymour Hersh saying to members of the ACLU. "Boys were sodomized with the cameras rolling. And the worst above all of that is the soundtrack of the boys shrieking that your government has." In June, Hersh told a crowd at the University of Chicago, "You haven't begun to see evil. . . horrible things done to children of women prisoners, as the cameras run."
Do you think the "journalists" who wrote fawning pieces glorifying Rummy and the War on Terror might wonder if they should have been a tad bit more critical and objective? Now that Hersh is actively bandying about the term "war crimes," does the proud use of the "K word" seem the least bit obscene? Do you suppose any of these outlets ponder their role in helping to create an atmosphere in which the U.S. military could do no wrong? Do they bear any responsibility? Of course not. Michael Moore is the bad guy.
911: The Lies of Michael Moore"
911: The Lies of G.W. Bush"
To date, there have been several reports expressing outrage over Michael Moore’s Fahrenheit 9/11. And despite the filmmaker’s promise to award $10,000 to anyone who can find a factual faux pas in his movie, the same people who rant about Moore’s tendency to twist things to conform to his point of view are, by and large, uncannily able to forgive President Bush far graver transgressions. (It’s a shame G.W didn’t offer anyone $10,000 if they caught him in a fib, eh?)
Yes, unless you’ve been living under Iraq’s WMD stockpile, you must have encountered a few of these folks in recent years. In some circles (those where the terminally outraged have a perpetual case of Linda Blair Head), "distortions" in Michael Moore’s Fahrenheit 911 are decried alongside chants of "traitor!" while Mr. Bush’s blatant and decidedly deadlier "distortions" are readily excused.
Gorged on a steady diet of FOX News, the Weekly Standard and the National Review, these "patriotic" automatons say Bush never implied Iraq was an "imminent" threat (He said "urgent," but why quibble?); they dismiss Scott Ritter’s pre-war observations about Bush’s WMD exaggerations (Never mind that he was right. Ritter was "on Saddam’s payroll," they say); and rather than fault the Bush White House for anything -- from mushroom cloud hype to Plamegate -- they always blame the messenger.
And yet, these very same souls, so forgiving of the sins that led to war, search high and low for anything upon which to hang Mr. Moore.
In his piece, Christopher Hitchens accused Moore of having the "filmic standards" of "Leni Riefenstahl." Yet maybe he should wonder about the propaganda that has created such a rash of Stepford citizens.
"Hey, Flyboy; Women voters agree: President Bush is a hottie!" By Lisa Schiffren, The Wall Street Journal, May 9, 2003
Flyboy Aren’t You Glad the Pentagon ‘Inadvertently Destroyed’ Your
Although the braying that accompanied the toppling of Saddam’s statue last April was both premature and embarrassing, the reaction to George Bush’s May 1, 2003 landing on the USS Abraham Lincoln was even worse. At least Saddam’s statue didn’t bring out the sexual cluelessness of the nation’s Muffies.
Writing for the Wall Street Journal, Lisa Schiffren explained how she showed "the picture of the president in his fly-boy gear that I just happened to have in my purse" to a series of women (who the hell "just happens" to carry such pictures?) and recounted how women everywhere found the president to be "confident," and "sexy." Of course, she, too, thought Bush was "really hot" in his "amazing uniform," but as if to make certain she’d be taken seriously, added, "Also presidential, of course. Not to mention credible as commander in chief. But mostly ‘hot,’ as in virile, sexy and powerful."
While there is no accounting for taste, Schiffren then chided the media for not swooning along. (She should have watched Chris Matthews. The man was beside himself). Brian Williams, the anchor slated to replace Tom Brokaw, however, earned kudos. "Brian Williams shook his head in awe at the clip and said, if I may paraphrase, 'that, ladies and gentlemen, is a president at the pinnacle of success, having just won a war.'"
Saying that "The American media were fully aware of how stunning the president looked," but "chose to defuse it," Schriffen was peeved that they didn’t fully appreciate Bush’s Tom Cruise/Luke Skywalker moment. "The man uses overwhelming military force to vanquish a truly evil foe, facing down balking former 'allies,' and he is not taken seriously as a foreign-policy president," she wrote. "He out top-guns the Hollywood version, and all the media can talk about is the impending campaign commercial."
Meanwhile, in the Washington Times, Susan Fields reported that Democrats "made fools of themselves with their churlish criticism," of President Flyboy, while explaining how "George W. was a hottie in his flight suit" and "was the victorious commander" who "glowed with the pride born of authenticity, declaring the war over. . ."
A few months later, however, Michael Moore (Is it any wonder Bush bootlickers hate him?) put the whole "credible as commander in chief" and "pride born of authenticity" claims to rest when he publicly mentioned the President’s questionable military record, which (finally) received national attention. Though the Associated Press reported on "allegations that potentially embarrassing material was removed from Bush's military file in 1997," this month, the Pentagon reported (surprise surprise) that the "Military records that could help establish President Bush’s whereabouts during his disputed service in the Texas Air National Guard more than 30 years ago have been inadvertently destroyed. . ."
"Give 'Terminator' a shot at White House? Hatch is pushing amendment
to lift Oval Office limit"
Mocks Hollywood elite, unless they’re Republicans, in which case, they’ll
alter the Constitution to help them become President"
The movie Demolition Man contains a Sylvester Stallone/Sandra Bullock scene that inspires either chuckles or winces, depending upon one's perspective. Referencing the "Schwarzenegger Library," Bullock's character sparks the following exchange:
Though written in 1993, this piece of fiction is remarkably apropos considering everything that's happened in America in the past decade. From Bill Clinton's impeachment to the 2000 selection to Texas redistricting and the California recall, the GOP power-grab has made nearly everything seem surreal. Then, too, Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) introduced the Equal Opportunity to Govern Amendment, which would lift the requirement that U.S. presidents be American-born. Even Schwarzenegger himself has said that those who’ve been U.S. citizens for 20 years or more (as he has) should "absolutely" be able to run for the presidency.
Never to be mistaken for one of those "girlie men," Schwarzenegger has been accused of everything from "grabbing women's breasts" to "fondling women under their skirts" to "trying to pull a woman's swimsuit off in an elevator," but chances are the GOP, despite their dogged determination to nail President Clinton for similar sins, would gladly look the other way.
Moreover, not to outdo speculative musings about the Clintons (who could surpass the ever-popular "Clinton body count"?), Schwarzenegger’s Feb. 2004 declaration that "President Bush can have California," has raised eyebrows of a different sort.
Hunter S. Thompson has said that "the basic plan" behind Schwarzenegger’s governorship is to try to "hand over the state's 54 electoral votes [to Bush] by election day," while journalist Wayne Madsen has said that an election day terror alert in California could win the presidential election for Bush. Pointing to Rush Limbaugh’s recent suggestion that "if a terrorist alert or attack were to occur, the election should go on and only those votes cast should be counted," Madsen has deduced that "Bush's plan for 'victory'" might involve such a ploy. Saying that there will be, "No postponement, just bedlam at the polls and a low turnout on the west coast," he disclosed how Bush could indeed "have California."
Just speculation, of course. Nothing to be concerned about. Unless, of course, California "goes red."
King be Moore Afraid of Prez?"
O'Reilly be Moore Ridiculous?"
Somewhere along the line, television, the ultimate melting pot for politics, entertainment and "retarded" journalism, has somehow become a cross between the Twilight Zone and Romper Room. How childishly bizarre have things become? Consider the dueling speculation inspired by Larry King Live last week. On July 14, The New York Daily News asked, "Did Larry King chicken out of an interview with Michael Moore?" while FOX's Bill O’Reilly implied that Moore was shaking in his sneakers, fearful that someone from the Bush White House would appear alongside him and challenge Fahrenheit 911. "He's hiding in the bank, in the vault, because he knows that he can't defend his movie, because it's not true," O’Reilly said.
Reportedly, King's CNN producers were negotiating with Moore, and were trying to book a White House representative to counter Moore's anti-Bush claims, but Larry King Live inexplicably dropped the ball. Between the title of The Daily News piece ("Could King be Moore afraid of Prez?") and the ultimate question, "Did the White House pressure King or his producers to keep Moore off?," the gist was pretty clear.
Nevertheless, this was O’Reilly's televised take:
And then . . .
The "truth police" told him he "might have been a little unfair?" A little unfair? Forget the "no spin zone." The entire thing had the smarmy feel of Drudge’s "Meryl as Hillary in the Manchurian Candidate?" headline.
Celebs Miss Out on the Limelight"
Celebrities Wake Up to Reality and Run into the Night Screaming"
In a March, 2003 FOX News story, Howard Stern was listed as a "pro-Bush celebrity." Within a year’s time, however, he was bluntly advising his listeners to "Get rid of George W. Bush."
While there were plenty of reasons for Stern’s change of heart (Bush’s religious agenda, incompetence, and questionable character come readily to mind), the shock jock has said that he feels as if he’s just waking up. (And boy howdy! is he).
Of course, during the initial stages of this awakening, he most likely sounded conspiratorial to many fans, who, like most of the country, had been shielded from reality for far too long. Nevertheless, Stern has since alerted millions to how the Bush administration and its cronies operate. "There's a real good argument to be made that I stopped backing Bush and that's when I got kicked off Clear Channel," he said on March 1.
Now poised to influence the 2004 election, this former "pro-Bush celebrity," presides over one of the Web’s most popular sites (which contains a variety of anti-Bush links).
In the meantime, FOX News, which habitually makes ridiculous "pro-Bush" claims continues to accumulate egg on its unfair and unbalanced face.
Miller: '9-11 changed me': Comedian defends Bush, will open fire on
others on new show"
Miller: ‘9/11 changed me into a lackey: Will sell soul to keep career
alive on failing new show"
While most people are familiar with Oscar Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray, if there were truly such a marker, chances are that, by now, Miller’s likeness would resemble a glob of raw hamburger topped with packets of partially dissolved cake mix.
Though at least one parody site has had a field day with the former comedian, the problem is not just that Mr. Miller is no longer funny (after all, humor is subjective and a man’s politics are merely part and parcel of who he is), the problem is that, via his transformation, Miller seems to have sold his soul.
Explaining how "Bush apparently knows how to treat the famous who are on his side," last summer Newsmax disclosed how Miller "got to ride in the president's limousine" and "on Air Force One," before revealing how Miller "gave some fuel to the recall Gray Davis forces when he observed that California is ‘now buying energy at mini-bar prices.’"
Wonder if Dennis ever got the news about who was really behind those spiked prices? Or if "Grandma Millie" can ever forgive him his boorishness?
Neil Young Shocks Leftists"
Neil Young Refuses to be GOP Trophy Bride"
You've got to hand it to the right wing media. Though they traditionally rail against celebrities who air political views, once they stumble across famous folks who embrace any GOP position, they immediately label them "pro-Bush" and parade them around like trophy wives.
Which is exactly what happened to Neil Young when Newsmax got wind of a statement he made in Dec. 2001. "[T]o protect freedom it seems that we're going to have to relinquish some of our freedoms for a short period of time," Young said of the Patriot Act. "But it's temporary, and we can't forget that it's temporary."
But before long, the Canadian icon was singing a different tune. "It's not what we thought we were gonna be doing, a lot of the people's civil rights have been compromised, and we don't know what's going on. If I keep speaking my mind, will I be deported?" he asked the Guardian in May, 2003. (Elton John made similar comments about U.S. censorship as recently as last week).
Young, who included a Clear Channel poster with the words "Support our War!" in his movie/stage production of his latest album, "Greendale," also commented on Clear Channel’s tight-gripped control and ties to Bush and sponsorship of pro-war rallies and pointed to Bush’s ignorance. "And this big deal about Bush landing on an aircraft carrier? Talk about a six-year-old kid with a Tonka toy - we got it here."
Looks like the honeymoon is over.
Laced Celebrity Hate Fest Reflects Kerry-Edwards Values"
Goldberg gets dumped after hatefest rant: Slim-Fast prefers GOP 'lovefests'
during Clinton era"
Though the Republican National Committee is not a member of the media, it might as well be. The number of outlets carrying its "hate fest" talking points is impressive (Newsmax actually features the headline, "Monica Crowley: What I saw at the Kerry-Edwards Hatefest," while most others, like Front Page Magazine, wait until their opening sentence to critique the "hatefest in New York City" where "John Kerry endorsed the vicious attack of Hollywood hacks on the Commander-in-Chief" as "a sad portent of things to come."
And yes, it was during that same "hatefest" (don’t you just miss the "happy impeachment portent" during Clinton-era GOP "lovefests"?) that Whoopi Goldberg had the audacity to make crude puns about Bush’s name, a sin which ultimately ended her stint as Slim-Fast’s spokesperson.
Though corporations reserve the right to fire controversial spokesmen (just ask Madonna), usually the controversy surrounding their actions is fairly steep (just ask Kobe Bryant). But firing a raunchy comedian for making raunchy remarks about a president? Isn’t that a time-honored American tradition? Can you imagine any major company dismissing any comedian for saying anything crude about President Clinton?
"I find all this feigned indignation about 'Bush bashing' quite disingenuous," Goldberg said, noting, as the New York Daily News pointed out, that " the Bush administration has savagely gone after critics like former Sen. Max Cleland, Iraq whistleblower Joseph Wilson and ex-terrorism chief Richard Clarke."
"For the Republican Party to pretend this is new to them seems a little fake," she said.
And, of course, the Bush administration is also shocked! Shocked! Shocked! that the Democrats won’t release the tape of the "hatefest," but it wasn't too long ago that the Bush camp refused to release the president’s rumored 1999 "king-making" speech before the ultra powerful Council for National Policy, despite the Democratic National Committee’s urging. What transpired at the event? According to a May 2002 ABC News report, "Depending on whose account you believe, Bush promised to appoint only anti-abortion-rights judges to the Supreme Court, or he stuck to his campaign 'strict constructionist' phrase. Or he took a tough stance against gays and lesbians, or maybe he didn't."
Weigh in on Marriage Vote Say Hollywood Voice Muffled by Intolerance"
Boone bemoans 'Radio City Music Hall hatefest,' GOP Senator likens
gay marriage to sex with box turtles"
Last week, a group of C-list entertainers (the most prominent being ‘50s singing sensation Pat Boone, dressed in faaaabuulous orange sherbet-colored attire) conducted a press conference to promote the Federal Marriage Amendment.
"Rick Santorum will be rutting with a dog himself if these are the best celebrity spokespeople for heterosexuality they can find," the ever-entertaining Wonkette wrote, of the Senate Republican Conference. "Dean Jones? Famous for (or, as the press release more accurately puts it, "known chiefly as") his role in "Herbie the Love Bug." Everyone knows that Herbie took it up the tailpipe. And Darrell Green? Really, nothing screams traditional values more than a guy who spends a lot of time around other sweaty, naked men. As for Pat Boone: Are we trying to say that straight people are pussies? And that pussies are boring?
"Classic mixed message."
And as for Sen. John Cornyn’s assertion about men marrying box turtles? Reminiscent of Rick Santroum’s "man on dog" remarks, the Senator said: "It does not affect your daily life very much if your neighbor marries a box turtle. But that does not mean it is right....Now you must raise your children up in a world where that union of man and box turtle is on the same legal footing as man and wife."
How does one respond to something like that?
Luckily, Jon Stewart was able to deconstruct turtle sex in this informative video.
Bonus "retarded" headlines:
for U.S. Senate? Ex-coach says run possible"
won't run for Senate: Legendary NFL coach was seen as best GOP hope
Out; Nugent In?"
In this case, all three headlines are real. No creative revision or additional commentary necessary. There is, however, a pressing need to point and laugh.
* * *
couple quick items from the ever-merging world of sloppy gossip (and
its regurgitation on national TV).
And secondly, check out this headline from this morning's Drudge Report:
Maureen Farrell is a writer and media consultant who specializes in helping other writers get television and radio exposure.
© Copyright 2004, Maureen Farrell