Friday, January 19, 2007

Nice try, Catnip.


One of the few times I'm going to take issue with Liberal Catnip:

You gotta love Helen Thomas...

Nobody rattles White House press secretaries better:

Helen.

Q Would the administration agree to a referendum in Iraq to see what the people really want?

MR. SNOW: No.

Q Why?


Stop. Right. There. It's at this point where you have to stop loving Helen Thomas since she didn't have the sense to shut the hell up.

She'd just asked a significant question that touched on things like Iraqi self-determination and sovereignty, and Snow had -- rather than launching into a meandering, vacuous filibuster which would have said absolutely nothing -- simply said "No." Jesus Christ, how can you not recognize that contemptuous dismissal for the journalistic gold that it is?

When someone says something that outrageously offensive and self-destructive, you don't give them a chance to rephrase their answer or try to add nuance to dig themselves out. You take that response, sit back down and hope like hell that someone else asks another question right now so that Snow doesn't have a chance to realize how badly he just fucked up and tries to fix things.

No, you take that answer and report on it verbatim, as in:

When asked if the administration would agree to a referendum in Iraq to see what the people really want, White House Spokesperson Tony Snow answered simply, "No."

And because you didn't give him a chance to get revved up, there's no way he can accuse anyone of taking him out of context, and that simple one-word dismissal would almost certainly have provoked a whole new round of thoroughly pissed-off Iraqis.

Being a good journalist means knowing how to ask good questions. Being a better journalist means knowing when you've got what you need, then sitting the fuck back down and shutting up.

5 comments:

Anonymous said...

So, how does Helen enjoy Gitmo?

Michael said...

Um... no. Being a "better" journalist definitely means asking "why", _especially_ after being tossed an answer whose real message is so clearly, "Will you please go away?"

The follow-on "Why?" says, in no uncertain terms, "Only in your dreams, Herr Spinmeister."

Anonymous said...

I agree with Michael on this one - the "Why?" question was a well crafted, and executed slap in the face.

CC said...

Michael:

Your position would make sense if a Tony Snow gaggle actually had the effect of imparting information. It doesn't. As everyone knows, it's more of a contest, where journalists ask questions, then sit back to see which technique Snow uses to avoid answering it. Asking "Why?" will not get you any more information, it simply prolongs the agony, and they all know it.

That's why, when Helen got that curt dismissal, she should have just sat back down and gone with that answer. It would have been amusing to see the fallout when Snow then tried to claim that, when he said "no," he didn't actually mean it. Or that he was being quoted out of context. Or something.

mk said...

My favourite example of a case in which you simply stop asking further questions was the infamous South Dakota abortion law interview with Bill Napoli:

Bill "Asshat" Napoli