This is the very first thing I read after getting out of bed and before the coffee was ready. Needless to say, it was an eye-opener:
In his portrayal of our second president, Paul Giamatti creates a man perpetually dissatisfied, disgusted by the preening ambition of politics even as he is infected by it. If his relentless crankiness was a bit hard for some of us to take in early episodes, in the second half of the series it makes much more sense. While exhorting angry men to throw off the shackles of tyranny offers many opportunities for rhetorical fabulousness, setting up a new government is a bureaucratic nightmare, with oversized personalities disagreeing over things both petty and fundamental. George Washington (David Morse) so quickly tired of the infighting among his Cabinet and vagaries of public opinion that he stepped down from the presidency after a single term. “I know now what it is like to be disliked,” he says to Adams, his perpetually disliked vice president.
I literally had to read it three times before I convinced myself that it wasn’t the lack of coffee or the fact that sleep was still in my eyes which may have caused me to see something that wasn’t there. I briefly considered the possibility of an hallucinogenic flashback which was causing the letters on the page to re-arrange themselves into words that were not actually printed but imagined.
After dismissing all rational and irrational reasons for anyone above the age of 7 to make such a gargantuan error, the horror finally engulfed me; the Los Angeles Times has hired a 6 year old to write for them – a cost cutting measure sure to please their new owner Sam Zell but would probably not sit well with anyone who possesses an IQ above 60.
I felt compelled to send the following email to the author of this piece, a lass named Mary McNamara:
My guess is that you have received 5,000 emails telling you what every 1st grader in the United States knows – that Washington served two terms as president.
Oh well, not everyone can be a reporter. To take liberties with the quote from John Houseman in Paper Chase:
“Ms. McNamara, here is a dime. Take it, call your mother, and tell her there is serious doubt about you ever becoming a journalist.”
A word here about the aforementioned Zell, owner of the Tribune Company as well as the Chicago Cubs baseball team. When last we left our hard charging, foul mouthed, bullying, media tycoon, he was busy trying to make himself the most unpopular business executive in the history of Chicago by proposing that the holy shrine of Wrigley Field (home of the hapless but lovable Chicago Cubs) undergo a slight name change. It seems that Sam wanted to open bidding among corporations for the honor of having their company name attached to the ballpark as is the custom for some other ballyards. Such elevating names as “Progressive (insurance) Park” in Cleveland or “US Cellular Field” across town, home to the White Sox, has garnered the owners hundreds of millions of dollars.
That Zell could be so ignorant of the passion that even non-baseball fans have for Wrigley Field in Chicago does not bode well for his efforts to resurrect the Tribune media empire. A poll taken by the Sun Times showed that 53% of fans surveyed would never attend a game at Wrigley Field if it were renamed.
So I wouldn’t put anything past Sam Zell. Perhaps he cut the fact checking department at the Times. Perhaps he had all reference materials like dictionaries and encyclopedias removed – or burned to save money on electricity. Maybe instead of 6 year olds, he hired J-school graduates who may be more expensive than children but demonstrate a similar understanding of the world and current events.
Of course, Patterico weighed in on this gaffe. The long suffering blogger who has forced himself over the years to read the Times while the rest of us riffed off of his excellent analysis of their foibles searches desperately for an explanation beyond pure, unadulterated, sublime ignorance on the part of McNamara:
Straining to give them the benefit of the doubt, I wonder: does the miniseries somehow portray Washington as having served only one term? I haven’t seen it, but I doubt it. [UPDATE: Make that “seriously doubt it.” See the UPDATE below.]
Lefty blogger Steve Smith, who tipped me to this, is beside himself with amazement at how they could get such a basic fact wrong. Go his post for his amusing cries of disgust, which conclude with this:
It’s enough to make a lefty sympathetic to Patterico. Does the fact-checker at the Times have to regularly drink water out of the toilet or lose their back teeth from subsisting on a diet of rocks to get that job?
I don’t know, Steve. But I hear they use the paper to housebreak him.
In defense of McNamara, she is, after all, an entertainment reporter. Her knowledge of shows I’ve never heard of and would never watch in a million years is extensive so perhaps she has filled her brain with so many facts about horrible television shows that it pushed out other, less relevant information like history and such. Or maybe important facts like the number of terms Washington served as president just oozed out of her ears while watching all of the drivel she evidently enjoys viewing to prepare for her scratching out her deep thoughts about a medium that insults the intelligence of anyone with half a brain who partakes in its idiocies.
Then again, she was writing about the success of the best thing on TV I’ve seen since Band of Brothers; the John Adams miniseries which is surprisingly literate, achingly accurate, and marvelously performed by Paul Giamatti in the title role. But if like many under the age of 30, she gets her knowledge of history from films and TV, I suppose it shouldn’t surprise us that she hasn’t a clue about how many terms Washington served as president.
As of 7:30 AM Pacific time, the error is still there, standing out like a huge zit on the face of a major metropolitan newspaper whose credibility – already in the pits – has been strained to the breaking point. One can imagine the fate of poor Ms. McNamara once Sam Zell hears of this stupidity. If I were her, I would make sure my resume is up to date and perhaps even look into that editor’s job at the Jackson Hole News.
At least if she makes a ridiculous error there, she won’t have more than a million Sunday readers and countless blogs pointing a finger in her direction and laughing like a baboon over her imbecility.