Remembering Ari Fleischer's reign of terror.

A wartime lexicon.
Sept. 11 2006 5:04 PM

Fear Factor

How did we survive Ari Fleischer's reign of terror?

(Continued from Page 1)

Q: As Commander-in-Chief, what was the President's reaction to television's Bill Maher, in his announcement that members of our armed forces who deal with missiles are cowards, while the armed terrorists who killed 6,000 unarmed (sic) are not cowards, for which Maher was briefly moved off a Washington television station?

A: I have not discussed it with the President, one. I have …

Q: Surely, as a—

A: I'm getting there.

Q: Surely as Commander, he was enraged at that, wasn't he?

A: I'm getting there, Les.

Q: Okay.

A: I'm aware of the press reports about what he's said. I have not seen the actual transcript of the show itself. But assuming the press reports are right, it's a terrible thing to say, and it's unfortunate. And that's why—there was an earlier question about has the President said anything to people in his own party—they're reminders to all Americans that they need to watch what they say, watch what they do. This is not a time for remarks like that; there never is.

Advertisement

Is it not absolutely and glaringly obvious, from these exchanges, that the second reply from Fleischer is a direct reference back to his first one, which itself consists of a mild rebuke to a crass remark made by a Republican Congressman? No more is being urged, in either case, than a politically correct respect for civility in a rather testing time. The choice of the term watch might be slightly unfortunate ("be more careful in their choice of words" might have been better) but then, the questions are clumsily phrased as well. And in fact, Fleischer is clearly refusing, in the second instance, to be drawn or goaded into going further than the topic will warrant. It is quite impossible to read anything minatory or bullying into his answers. The word terrible is not that strong, and the word unfortunate is positively feeble, and both are delivered conditionally because Fleischer won't even go as far as to say that he knows for sure what Maher had come up with! The only fear-mongering here comes from columnists who are too lazy to check (and too idle to read the letters to their own paper).

I do not know how many times I have either read or heard Fleischer being misquoted on this, either accidentally or deliberately, since his own modest letter was published in the New York Times two and a half years ago. But I think this slander should now be put to rest. I think so, first, because it is a minor injustice and a minor distortion of the historical record. I think so, second, because I recently spent a full hour being interviewed on Al-Jazeera, which was mounting a show on the "fear industry" in the United States. I felt obliged then, and feel obliged now, to say that such fear as there is has been principally the result of loud and gloating statements and actions, made and taken by people who thirst to kill us. To enjoy the privilege of a newspaper column, and to choose to stress instead the Fleischer reign of terror, strikes me as grotesque, and also as very slightly worrying.

TODAY IN SLATE

Medical Examiner

Here’s Where We Stand With Ebola

Even experienced international disaster responders are shocked at how bad it’s gotten.

Why Are Lighter-Skinned Latinos and Asians More Likely to Vote Republican?

A Woman Who Escaped the Extreme Babymaking Christian Fundamentalism of Quiverfull

The XX Factor
Sept. 22 2014 12:29 PM A Woman Who Escaped the Extreme Babymaking Christian Fundamentalism of Quiverfull

Subprime Loans Are Back

And believe it or not, that’s a good thing.

It Is Very Stupid to Compare Hope Solo to Ray Rice

Building a Better Workplace

In Defense of HR

Startups and small businesses shouldn’t skip over a human resources department.

How Ted Cruz and Scott Brown Misunderstand What It Means to Be an American Citizen

Divestment Is Fine but Mostly Symbolic. There’s a Better Way for Universities to Fight Climate Change.

  News & Politics
Politics
Sept. 22 2014 6:30 PM What Does It Mean to Be an American? Ted Cruz and Scott Brown think it’s about ideology. It’s really about culture.
  Business
Moneybox
Sept. 22 2014 5:38 PM Apple Won't Shut Down Beats Music After All (But Will Probably Rename It)
  Life
Dear Prudence
Sept. 23 2014 6:00 AM Naked and Afraid Prudie offers advice on whether a young boy should sleep in the same room with his nude grandfather.
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 22 2014 7:43 PM Emma Watson Threatened With Nude Photo Leak for Speaking Out About Women's Equality
  Slate Plus
Slate Plus
Sept. 22 2014 1:52 PM Tell Us What You Think About Slate Plus Help us improve our new membership program.
  Arts
Brow Beat
Sept. 23 2014 8:46 AM How Men Talk About Relationships in Rom-Coms: While Playing Sports
  Technology
Future Tense
Sept. 22 2014 6:27 PM Should We All Be Learning How to Type in Virtual Reality?
  Health & Science
Bad Astronomy
Sept. 23 2014 7:00 AM I Stand with Emma Watson
  Sports
Sports Nut
Sept. 18 2014 11:42 AM Grandmaster Clash One of the most amazing feats in chess history just happened, and no one noticed.