The Magazine

Jack McGeorge, Raines's reign, and more.

Dec 16, 2002, Vol. 8, No. 14
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Blix's Black Rose

On Nov. 28, the Washington Post broke the news--startling to many--that one of the members of Hans Blix's United Nations weapons inspection team for Iraq was Jack McGeorge. A 53-year-old munitions analyst from Woodbridge, Virginia, McGeorge has also held leadership roles in various sadomasochistic sex clubs, a fact that did not turn up in his background check, which is understandable since the United Nations didn't conduct one.

Many in the media were aghast, and began picking over his résumé, taking note of the fact that his S&M expertise seemed to surpass his munitions expertise, since McGeorge merely holds an associate's degree in security management from a community college, while he has been honored as a "doctor of S&M arts and letters" from something called "Leather University." For all the hubbub, the whole thing felt like Old Home Week to The Scrapbook.

Reading in the Post that one of the sex clubs McGeorge cofounded is named Black Rose, we were reminded of a piece written by our own Matt Labash nearly seven years ago ("It's an S&M Kind of Thing," Jan. 15, 1996). Labash was reporting on the S&M scene in the supposedly buttoned-down suburbs of Washington in the interest of--well, who knows what his interest was, but he attended a Black Rose conference. Labash identified the speaker, a former Secret Service agent, as "Bilbo" for his "uncanny resemblance to Tolkien's Hobbit." But in fact, the speaker was Jack McGeorge.

The piece noted that McGeorge was good for all sorts of useful tips in a "How to Conduct an Interrogation" seminar, which he delivered in his Inquisition rig: black tights, executioner's mask, Sherwood Forest blouse. McGeorge said that the best investment he ever made was the $7,500 medieval dungeon he constructed in his suburban Virginia basement, which he used for playing interrogation scenarios, from Downed Pilot to Honduras Hangar With a Car Battery and a Meathook. Whether advising to keep Gregorian chants as soft background music, using oatmeal and rice to sub for weevil-filled gruel, or using Palmolive to replicate the viscous feel of blood, McGeorge was a regular Marquis de Martha Stewart.

While McGeorge has offered to resign from the inspections team, chief inspector Hans Blix has kept him on. Maybe this is because, as a U.N. spokesman suggests, McGeorge is a "highly qualified and competent technical expert." But could there be another reason why the inspections community is loath to jettison McGeorge? Having held on to his notes, Labash now reports that one of the quotes seems eerily prophetic. Seven years ago at the Black Rose seminar, McGeorge told Labash, "I have had several people that I work with come to Black Rose meetings. The chemical and biological warfare areas are rife with kinky people."

In any case, while others fret over McGeorge's appointment, we applaud it. Maybe with the involvement of McGeorge, who once advised that when conducting an interrogation, it's vital to "keep the little bloody buggers tethered down," Saddam Hussein's goons will at least get a good, hard spanking.

"Call it journalism . . ."

"There is only one word for our vigor in pursuing a story--whether in Augusta or Afghanistan. Call it journalism." Thus spake New York Times managing editor Gerald Boyd in a memo last week defending the paper's crusade to force the Augusta National Golf Club, which hosts the annual Masters Tournament, to allow women as members.

The willingness to mention a major war and a minor editorial campaign in the same pompous breath is a fine example of why Times-watching has lately evolved from right-wing hobbyhorse to big-time bipartisan bloodsport. Newsweek recently published a major article on bias at the paper of record; last week, the superb Daily News columnist Paul Colford came up with his own big scoop on this rich subject; and, following that, media junkie Jim Romenesko posted the memo from Boyd on his MediaNews website.

And yet the Times continues to breathe fire on Augusta. It has published 37 stories this year on the club's membership policies. Such obsessiveness, one staffer told Seth Mnookin of Newsweek, "makes it hard for us to have credibility on other issues." Another Times employee said it has put executive editor Howell Raines "in danger of losing the building."

Mnookin's article describes a growing divide between staff and management. It's just a guess, but this may have something to do with management's effort to squash independent-minded reporters. Times editors, Colford reports in the Daily News, recently killed two columns on Augusta by Times sportswriters--one by Harvey Araton, the other by Pulitzer Prize-winner Dave Anderson. The columns were spiked because they were at odds with the position taken by the paper's editorial page: that Tiger Woods should skip the Masters until Augusta relents on its men-only membership policy.

After he filed a column arguing that this is not Tiger's "fight or any golfer's fight," Anderson said "it was decided by the editors that we should not argue with the editorial page." Once this was reported in the Daily News, managing editor Boyd (speaking for himself and editor Howell Raines) uncorked the above-quoted memo, which says that at the Times, "a well-reported, well-reasoned column can come down on any side, with our welcome." But for a column to disagree with the editorial page is, well, "unseemly and self-absorbed." Horrors.

A newspaper is, of course, free to put whatever it wants in its pages, not to mention publicly insult its own writers by suggesting that their columns are not well-reported or well-reasoned. But only the New York Times is conceited enough to stifle dissent and then "call it journalism."

Campus Courage

We've pointed out enough campus idiocy on this page to make space for some good news when it comes along. We were heartened by the report in last Thursday's New York Times about former senator Bob Kerrey, now president of the famously radical New School. Kerrey is also a founding member of the Committee for the Liberation of Iraq, a group he described last month as intended to explain why "the liberation of Iraq is something the United States ought to do." A few students, thinking this beyond the pale, want Kerrey to resign. Instead, he agreed to what the Times reported was "a raucous, often bitter debate, in which Mr. Kerrey was accused of betraying the New School's pacifist legacy and miring the school in controversy."

But Kerrey apparently gave as good as he got. "In a line that drew loud applause, Mr. Kerrey said he did not want 'to set a precedent so this university begins to be led, like so many other universities in America, by presidents who are so concerned by fundraising needs that they have no public opinion on anything that matters.'"

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