The Magazine

Elvis Presley, Kahlil Gibran, and more.

From the Scrapbook.

Oct 29, 2007, Vol. 13, No. 07
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Phony Hate Crimes (cont.)

THE SCRAPBOOK has a confession to make. We haven't paid much attention to Air America--the hapless attempt to create a successful left-wing talk-radio network from scratch--since its debut in 2004. The key word here is hapless. The New York Times may have featured its gestation on the front page for months, and Air America might have featured the talents of Al Franken for hours on end. But the sad truth is that the story for the past three years has been one of incompetence, managerial musical chairs, Chapter 11, and an ever-shrinking audience. If your taste runs to "Go Vegan with Bob Linden," the conspiracy theories of Robert F. Kennedy Jr., and rapper Chuck D (formerly of Public Enemy), then Air America is your network. Even Al Franken jumped ship.

So we were startled to see Air America in the news last week, and doubly startled when we learned the reason. According to Jon Elliott, host of "This is America with Jon Elliott," a fellow Air America gabmeister named Randi Rhodes had been mugged and seriously injured one evening last week outside her Manhattan residence.

"This does not appear to me to be a standard grab-the-money-and-run mugging," said Elliott, clearly distraught. "Is this an attempt by the right-wing hate machine to silence one of our own? Are we threatening them? Are they afraid that we're winning? Are they trying to silence--intimidate--us?" Excellent questions. And before you know it, the left-wing blogosphere was off and running, lamenting the unprovoked attack on Randi Rhodes and pointing out that this "hate crime" had all the earmarks of Karl Rove, or Halliburton, or the Ku Klux Klan, or the folks who gave you Abu Ghraib--and so on and on.

Except for one thing: As Ms. Rhodes's lawyer announced the following day, his client had not been mugged by anyone but was injured in a fall while "walking her dog." Or as Ms. Rhodes herself explained on Air America, "I was watching football in an Irish pub. I went out to smoke a cigarette and the next thing I knew I was down on the cement, face down, bleeding. .  .  . I don't know if someone hit me from behind, or if I fainted because I hadn't eaten all day." Or as less gallant observers have suggested, maybe she toppled onto the pavement for other reasons--reasons well known to those of us in the pub-frequenting-after-not-eating-all-day community.

How Randi Rhodes came face-to-face with a New York sidewalk is no concern of ours, and, in the spirit of compassionate conservatism, we wish her a speedy recovery. But it tells us something a little startling--maybe even a little pathetic--about the left-wing blogosphere that it clings to such pathological views of our country, and reacts with instant paranoia to political dissent. No wonder Air America now flies below the radar.

Dr. King, They Presumed

A classic correction from the October 18 New York Times: "Because of an editing error, an obituary yesterday about the photographer Ernest C. Withers, who documented life in the segregated South in the 1950s and '60s, from the civil rights movement to the Memphis blues scene, misidentified the person he photographed arm in arm with Elvis Presley at a Memphis club in 1956. It was B.B. King, not the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr."

We like to think that had they actually published the historic photo shown here, the Times editors would have caught the error before going to press. But you never can be sure.

More of the Same, Piled Higher & Deeper

Everyone who's been sadly putting down the New York Times editorial page thinking, "That was great, but one page just isn't enough for me," must be in clover now. The Times unveiled a new blog last week called The Board ( Written by the 19 members of the paper's editorial board, who produce the short, unsigned opinion pieces that grace the paper's editorial page, the blog cleverly offers even more short, unsigned pieces of opinion writing. In its first week, the topics on The Board ranged from calling on voters to lobby their representatives to override the president's S-chip veto; to obsessing about torture; to making fun of Condoleezza Rice; to urging reporters to follow "the Karl Rove Connection" to the firing of several U.S. attorneys this past summer; to insisting that Rudy "Giuliani has no right to take sole credit for New York's revival." Oh, they brought up Larry Craig, too.

It's difficult to see how The Board differs from, say, the New York Times editorial page. Oh, wait, there is one difference: The Board hosts a comments section, leading to gems like this one from "Garbanzo": "Not to question your collective work ethic, but 19 board members = 2 editorials per day x 7 days per week. Each board member has to write but one editorial per week? Where can I sign up for this job? Is this a full-time gig?"