Monday, July 28

The Electric Gatekeeper of Hell

WARNING: the visually impaired should not watch this video. The rest of you can already see it's Meredith Viera.

AT one point last week the bereaved homeowner, forcibly separated from modern communications, considered getting all his news from the television networks, which still showed up in his living room unbidden, free of charge, like previously rejected suitors now possessed of some pathetic new hope, but secret, daring only to express condolences but thinking maybe! Maybe now he'll come back! But I'd only thought of it as some species of that experiment where one eats fast food every day for a month or watches the complete cinematic oeuvre of Former Saturday Night Live cast members and then blogs about it if he survives. But Katie's little puppy eyes looked so sad and hurt and trusting that first night that I couldn't bring myself to do it.

I got so far, though, as to actually try to watch the morning shows, and these were ten of the most unpleasant minutes of my life, ever.  I know it couldn't be that my expectations were too high. It must be that in the interval since I last watched one (when Hughes Rudd, R.I.P., still hosted the CBS Morning News) the very concept of "News" had been forgotten, and then was reconstructed by network archaeologists, largely through guesswork aided by the discovery of Joan Lunden's long-lost audition tape. On Thursday morning I sat down with coffee, buttered toast, and two aspirin, and discovered--this is right off the bat, mind you!--that at that moment the viewer could select  a) Miley Cyrus, b) George Michael, or c) Batman. I glanced at the clock, which read 8:15!  Even the wintergreen-flavored lo-cal hard news substitute they peddle had been dispensed with for the day. I'd begun with zero expectations and they had already proven impossibly high.

Who needs--or can take--this sort of thing before breakfast digests? Who among those prefers it come annotated by a clamor of carefully coiffed "talent" all nattering at once? Why are a bunch of middle-aged white people enthusing over the latest singing sensation beloved of girls from 11 to 11-and three-quarters as though this were a recently discovered demographic, or one which Nielsen recently reported had suddenly taken to watching morning "news" programs as a replacement for hot torrents of text messaging urea?

I resolved to tune in earlier next time, just to make sure there was no mistake. And it turned out to be worst than I'd even imagined.

Meredith Viera.

First, I'll own up to a visceral, possibly chemical dislike for the woman, and I suspect that part of it is that the way some people have gaydar I have I have an analogous ability to spot schoolyard tattletales and congenital suck-ups years, even decades later. Second, though we were born less than ten days apart she has been exuding that cloying eau de middling-town society page for twenty years, and as someone once said about Harry Connick, Jr., it's one thing to act as though Bob Dylan isn't important to you, and quite another to act like you've never heard of him. And there was the infamous 60 Minutes stint where she tried to portray herself as some sort of breast-feeding Feminist icon, even though real women, working and otherwise, who were struggling with real problems and real workplace oppression without high-six-figure salaries to cushion the blows never got the time of day in her stories.

And, finally, call me old fashioned, call me just plain old, but once you've decided that hosting game shows and hawking everything from patent medicines to washday miracles to panty shields is your line I think you should be done with reporting The News, and The News should be done with you. Once you have demonstrated that the things that come out of your mouth are for sale you're disqualified! Is this too esoteric a concept for the modern age, or just too potentially honest?

Now, maybe that's just me, but then, go ahead and judge for yourselves. Friday they gave Viera the 100th Anniversary of the FBI story. And fittingly, since she has all the qualities Hoover admired in a journalist.

Watch along with me, won't you, as we begin with a faux-noir tale of the Bureau's early fame, matched by faux-history (though this too is fitting). Dillinger! Bonny and Clyde! Scarface! Machine Gun Kelly, who gave 'em the G-Men moniker! Except, of course, that fans of the cinema may recall that Bonnie & Clyde were gunned down by state lawmen from Texas and Louisiana, although more casual viewers would be forgiven for mistaking the Sneaky Ambuscade Without Warning as Hoover's Boys' M.O. Capone was tracked down by T-Men, and it was John Edgar's wordcrafters that put their slogan in Kelly's mouth. Right on one count, though; the public execution of Big Dick John was all Purvis, pissing his drama-queen boss off no end, of course.

Then it's time to update our hagiographyin', as Viera interviews Robert Mueller. Skip ahead to around 2:30; believe me, you won't miss anything.
Let's talk about highlights for the F.B.I. The Unabomber?

Right. The stirring success story of a government agency which looked for the man for eighteen years, and managed to find him, somehow, shortly after his brother turned him in. And this in spite of the fact that a sizable percentage of the UNABOM task force didn't believe Ted Kaczynski was their man even after they'd arrested him. Perhaps because they'd been reading that miraculous profile that predicted he'd be a married, meticulous, blue collar worker with a high-school education.  Let's talk about highlights!

But it's not all fluff; Viera proves she can ask the tough questions:
But the FBI has had its embarrassments. The raid in Waco, Texas. The wife and son of White Separatist Randy Weaver were killed in a standoff in Ruby Ridge, Idaho.

Again, I'd lost track of her until Friday. Does she do all her research at Little Green Footballs?

And don't get me wrong. The Bureau has a lot to answer for about Waco. It has one shot to answer for, two if you believe the conspiracy theorists, at Ruby Ridge.  Okay. But is it possible that Viera is so tone-deaf she didn't realize how that sounds, or is that just her real journalistic credentials on display? She and I were born ten days apart. If you ask me about FBI "embarrassments" I'd probably start with Martin Luther King, spying on US citizens for partisan political purposes, infiltrating anti-war groups and inciting violence, Wounded Knee, and doing Reagan's dirty work for him. I might have gone back to the trial-less executions of Dillinger and Pretty Boy Floyd, or tuning Ma Barker into a criminal mastermind after they gunned her down, or the internal domestic surveillance they were doing even before the world's most successful malignant cross-dressing little fascist took over (Jane Addams, public enemy, anyone?) I might mention Hoover's warehouses of creepy, sex-obsessed licensed snoppery, his utter contempt for the law, his blackmail-fueled five decades of petty-tyranny, his racism, his cosy relationship with the Mafia the Bureau insisted didn't exist. I might've mentioned Fred Hampton, who, unlike Koresh or the Weavers, didn't get a warning, let alone hours or days to surrender. If you told me you wanted to restrict it to something within the memory of the Today Show viewership--like they remember the 90s?--I might've asked Viera if she'd ever heard of Judy Bari, or why Robert Hanssen and Wen Ho Lee didn't qualify as "embarrassments".  Waco and Ruby Ridge, whatever else they were, were legitimate law enforcement exercises gone bad (and then politicized).  Maybe we should start the list with the extra-legal killings and the overtly political acts.

Or maybe it's just me.


Jaye Ramsey Sutter said...

Have you ever wondered what is going to happen to history when we are dead? Are we--I mean the royal we--those who read this blog--the only people that remember anything.

My favorite FBI incident--beside Hoover playing tapes of MLK and unidentified woman for Mrs. King--is the hounding of Jean Seberg.

I can see you hosting a program about our nation's history called, "Truth and Consequences." Panty shields would be the least of what we needed.

Hattie said...

I remember things. But I'm old. I think I'm at my maximum remembering age now. Soon, I too will forget.
Keep writing, that's the thing.

heydave said...

No, it's not just you: she's an overpaid fucking hack smug in own sphere of bullshit.

LittlePig said...

My first thought upon reading 'If you ask me about FBI "embarrassments"' was Fred Hampton.

I'm glad you mentioned him. Because after all, feeding inner-city black kids breakfast is a capital offense.

Michael said...

Well, hell, if it's recency we're after, I remember a little incident from back in September of 2001 that got quite a lot of buzz at the time. It doesn't even require going quite so far as, say, looking up Sibel Edmonds on the Google to find actual, official condemnation of FBI fecklessness prior to 9/11; you'd think such a thing might actually loom large enough to manage to hold a place even in Meredith Viera's tiny little mind.

Ah, who'm I kidding?

Harry Cheddar said...

Hoover denied the Mafia existed until the day he died. America's top cop also liked to play his collection of naughty surveillance tapes at his private soirees. And don't forget how the FBI hounded of Chaplin into exile. There's really too much to choose from . . .

Lamb Cannon said...

I visited my grandmother who lived in Chevy Chase every summer in the 60s. Each afternoon, regardless of the crappy humidity, she would take a stately walk around the neighborhood and point things out to me; embassies, houses where her children's friends had lived and grown up and played together, the usual nostalgia.

One day she stopped dead on the sidewalk and said to me (truthfully), this is J. Edgar Hoover's house. Whatever else you would say about this human execresence, he lived in a relatively modest house there on...34th st. N.W.? i think it was. She was in disbelief but wouldn't tell me right away, she wanted me to guess. I was a clueless boy who, well, didn't have a clue.

Astroturf, she finally said. He's ripped out his lawn and replaced it with astroturf. My gaze slowly panned upward, past the heat lines rising up from the faux greenery, until i found myself staring into the front window into the living room.

Can't imagine what would happen if you did that today to say, one of Cheney's houses. In any case, I realized I was staring directly at an elderly man in a maid's outfit, the room dimly visible thru the afternoon's glare. He looked straight at me (imagine William S. Burroughs playing Paul's grandfather in Hard Day's Night) and slowly disappeared backwards into the gloom.

One of the strangest things I ever saw in my life; I still shudder thinking about the frilly outfit and the dead, dead astroturf... Perhaps he's part of a love triangle in hell with J. Ed and fucking Roy Cohn...

R. Porrofatto said...

Just swell.
The stirring success story of a government agency which looked for the man for eighteen years, and managed to find him, somehow, shortly after his brother turned him in.

Thank you. Reminds me of the KBI (metaphysical Kansas relation of F ) celebrating the success of their 30-year manhunt and capture of the BTK killer after he basically sent them his identity and whereabouts.

There aren't words in any language to properly describe the Little Megalomanic, Hoover. Wonder where his trove of dossiers is right now? We endured the slug for decades, but I suppose we should be grateful that Mitchell Palmer never realized his own ambition to be president.