Bloggers on the media's new skepticism toward Obama.

Bloggers on the media's new skepticism toward Obama.

Bloggers on the media's new skepticism toward Obama.

The latest chatter in cyberspace.
March 4 2008 5:31 PM

As the Press Turns

Bloggers talk about the media's sudden tough questioning of Barack Obama and lament a pair of fradulent memoirs.

As the press turns: "Like a man bitten by his own dog" was how Dana Milbank described Barack Obama's expression Monday as he faced the most hostile press corps of his campaign. Coming soon after Saturday Night Live made a mockery of the media's fawning treatment of Obama, journalists in San Antonio hounded Obama with questions about his camp's statements to Canada about NAFTA; his relationship with indicted Chicago real-estate developer Tony Rezko, and his supposed loss of the Jewish vote. Obama was visibly flustered and exited the press conference early, claiming he was "late" for something.

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Conservative Floppin' Aces says smells fear in Obama's skedaddle: "Another big rookie mistake is to cut short a press conference and run from the room. It only amplifies the importance of the questions and Obama's lame response." Obama supporter Andrew Sullivan writes: "Would have been better to happen next week—because you never want to be on the defensive like this before major primaries. But it's a good thing for the candidate and the country to keep the heat on all of them. The NAFTA thing, while pretty trivial in the grand scheme of things, is a perfectly legitimate story, and reveals a certain naivete on the art of Golsbee."

John at Christian Political Response creditsSNL with the media sea change: "Saturday Night Live for the past two weeks has opened their show with skits depicting the media as Barack Obama lovers, refusing to ask the candidate tough questions and sucking up to him, while at the same time hammering Hillary Clinton. It seems the media cares what the media thinks about itself." At New Republic's Stump, Michael Crowley makes the same point: "Last week Clinton spokesman Phil Singer was ridiculed for telling the press corps they should take cues from Saturday Night Light's skits on pro-Obama media bias. Last night CNN's Anderson Cooper conducted an entire segment on based last weekend's debate-parody sketch, in which correspondents John King and Candy Crowley basically conceded that Obama has gotten gentle treatment."

Kevin McCauley at O'Dwyer's PR Blog welcomes Obama to the club: "Even if he sweeps Texas and Ohio tomorrow, Obama (and his supporters) need to toughen up because the media long knives need material to fill the huge time gap before the election in November. Right-wing knuckleheads making fun of Obama's middle name, Hussein, will be the least of the campaign's worries."

The Provocateur, though, is underwhelmed with the media's late thwacking: "On issue after issue the media has taken a hands off approach toward challenging the specifics of any of Barack Obama's proposals. If by the media lover affair being over it means that Obama will be asked frivilous questions about loose affiliations with those of questionable integrity, then again we may as well swear him in now. If, on the other hand, the media begins to examine his record and ask probing questions about its specifics then the lover affair will really be over."

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Read more about the media's ending love affair with Obama.

Pack of lies: It's been a bad week for memoirists, as two women who published accounts of incredible lives turned out to have lied. Misha Defonseca is not a Holocaust survivor raised by wolves but is actually Monique De Wael, a Belgian Catholic whose parents were indeed murdered by the Nazis. And Margaret Jones—er, Seltzer—did not spend her youth running drugs in South Central but at a private school in the well-off San Fernando Valley.

Ann Bartow at Feminist Law Professors poses the question: "Should publishers be held to a higher standard of care, to protect readers from this sort of opportunistic and exploitive fraud? Or should readers cynically assume all memoirs are ragingly dishonest?" Joseph Fink at Something Awful didn't need the latest headlines to wonder about the veracity of Misha's tale: "I'm sorry, she claimed she did what? With a pack of what? It really took this long for people to realize that maybe this young Jewish war orphan did not, in fact, wander war-torn Europe under the care of wolves?"

Alex at the Museum of Hoaxes rolls his eyes at Defonseca's dud apologia that "This story is mine. It is not actually reality, but my reality, my way of surviving." Alex says: "This excuse is used so often that bookstores might soon have to start separating books into a third category: fiction, non-fiction, and non-fiction in a metaphorical sense."

Bruno Waterfield at the Telegraph compares Defonseca to Holocaust deniers: "The story of Misha Defonseca is a parable for our times and a warning of the dangers we face when we suspend our critical faculties to claims made by people who put on the mantle of victim-hood. The Holocaust, especially when used as a moral touchstone representing human evil (rather than a unique historical account of the terrifying consequences of a dehumanising state policy), seems to attract such testimony. Such fabrications are true revisionism and pose more of a danger to history that the Holocaust deniers such as David Irving."

Oline H. Cogdill at Off the Page is not surprised by Seltzer's fabrication: "Would the book had been less powerful if she had turned it in as FICTION instead of nonfiction? I don't think so. Is having a vivid imagination and coming up with an excellent story the sign of a good writer? Yes, it is. Is coming up with a wonderfully written book, passing it off as reality and then being found out the sign of a good writer? No, it is not. It is the sign of a fool." Gawker is especially harsh: "The saddest thing for Seltzer in all this is that she couldn't drag her deception out just a little bit longer. Her adulatory Times clips had her on track for bestseller status in the mold of A Million Little Pieces, by fellow lying memoirist James Frey. If she had been caught a few months down the road, she would still have been disgraced, but at least would also have had a shot at profiting off her infamy by selling a clearly labeled work of fiction for upwards of $1 million, as Frey did."

And Moue Magazine makes the fair point: "If fiction is where she feels more comfortable as a writer, there is such a thing as fictional memoir. Dave Eggers has practically made a career out of that genre and his "What is the What"- told through the eyes of a Lost Boy of Sudan- is a compelling read. Eggers' worked for years interviewing Valentino Achak Deng and the result is a story where Eggers' own voice is only occasionally noticeable."

Read more about memoir fabulism.

Michael Weiss is the director of communications at the Henry Jackson Society, a London-based think tank that promotes democratic geopolitics. He is also the spokesman for Just Journalism, which examines how Israel and the Middle East are portrayed in the U.K. media.