Rationing Your Give-a-Shit

Fucking THIS, okay:

The only ones left who refuse to believe Burge led a torture ring,
it seems, are dead-enders who are constitutionally unable to fathom –
or simply don’t care – that such a thing occurred.

Still, the media apathy is stunning.

A new bizarre excuse comes from Eric Zorn:

“Even though I normally follow criminal justice issues, I’ve barely touched on this trial,” Zornwrote
on Sunday. “The reason? I don’t want to risk vesting importance in a
not-guilty verdict which, at this writing, with the jury still
deliberating, I consider possible. Jurors can be awfully sympathetic to
lawmen, and Burge’s defense played heavily on their emotions.

“I’ve read enough about these massively corroborated allegations
over the years that the opinion reached by a dozen newcomers to a
partial presentation won’t change my mind and shouldn’t change yours.”

And therefore I’m not even going to discuss the evidence presented
at this trial or the ramifications for any current officeholders
including our mayor! I just don’t care anymore!

“Nor, I believe, will the verdict have any repercussions either way.
The stories of torture have already resulted in all the reforms they’re
going to result in – videotaping of confessions and interrogations,
cameras on cops, greatly heightened skepticism of the wisdom of the
death penalty and so on.”

Yes. All of the policy prescriptions have been taken care of!

(“Meanwhile, Representative Danny K. Davis, Democrat of Illinois, is
pushing for federal legislation that would make police torture a
federal crime without a statute of limitations,” the Chicago News
Cooperative reported on Friday.)

“Nothing this jury decides will change the necessity and wisdom of
those reforms or that, in many ways, over time, justice here has
already been done.”

Yes, justice has already been done. Why even hold this trial? Who
cares if Burge is imprisoned or if any of his co-conspirators are
waylaid by their own perjury charges? Who cares if the victims and
their families are left with open wounds? Zorn has seen enough. Time to
move on tomen not asking for directions andthe genius of Bob Sirott!

“And why has there been no uprising of outraged citizens,” Carol Marinwrites in her SundaySun-Times column.

Just what is it citizens are supposed to do to show their outrage?
At least journalists have a platform from which to vent, analyze, and
even attempt to hold shame public officials into accountability. Why
has there been no uprising of outraged pundits?

“In truth, that code [of silence] is alive and well in every corner of this city and state.”

Including our newsrooms.

Brief background for those of you who don’t live here: Cops in
Chicago engaged in what Rush Limbaugh likes to call fraternity pranks,
for years, and tortured a bunch of suspects some of whom ended up on
death row. The perjury trial of their fearless leader, which by all
rights should end with every one of these violent, racist bastards in
chains, has been going on for several weeks. Not so as you’d notice
here in Chicago, because the Cubs and Sox are playing each other in
baseball, and it’s been hot out, so that doesn’t leave much room on the
nightly newscasts for news. Fuck all this forever.
The modern Chicago Tribune is expressly written for white
businessmen’s wives in Naperville, so I feel sort of bad joining in the
pile-on on Zorn, who really is nothing more than exactly what he needs
to be. But this is the kind of bloodlessness I’m always talking about when I talk about what’s wrong with newspaper commentary.
I say over all the time that too much energy is
expended rooting out political slants in news coverage and not enough
energy is expended rooting out laziness and stupidity. Add to those the
allergy to excitement, the confusion of passion with bias, and the
beaten-down attitude you get after being mindfucked daily by one
corporate asshole after the next and what you end up with is this: A
COLUMNIST FOR A MAJOR AMERICAN NEWSPAPER explaining to you why he just
can’t be bothered to get excited about a news story because hey, the
jury might come back not guilty, and then he’d look futile and small.
It’s hard for me to put into words how crazy that is, especially when
it’s said with such blithe certainty, in such a reasonable tone, by
such a sensible guy.
I had this fight with an editor, once. He asked me if I thought a
certain public figure, exposed as an amoral, lying monster in stories
I’d written, should be called upon in our editorials to resign. YES, I
said. We should advocate for his resignation, we should advocate for
application of all legal remedies to lock this bastard up, and we
should do so repeatedly and loudly until time ground us into dust. The
editor looked confused and troubled. “What if he doesn’t resign?” If he doesn’t resign? Then he’ll still be a son of a bitch
who is going to hell, and you’ll still beright Jesus God. Isn’t that enough? It
wasn’t. It was more important that we look as though we had influence,
and if we’d called on him to resign, and he didn’t, well, then we’d
look dumb, wouldn’t we?
This is a fundamental misunderstanding that infects every level of
every medium in which we transmit information to one another. Your
responsibility is not to WIN, and still less to look like you’re winning. It’s to speak with whatever voice you
possess about the things that matter to you. Listening issomebody
else’s job
and they’ll do it or they won’t but you can’t make your whole life about the presumed actions of others, it’s a quick route to the madhouse. This is a thing writing teaches you, especially, that you
send your stories out into the world and sometimes they matter,
sometimes they change things, sometimes they inspire and uplift and
make somebody a different person, alight with courage and glory.
Sometimes they just lay there like a dead fish and nobody does anything
and nothing changes and you feel like an asshole.
And the point is, you can never tell which it’s going to be.
Should you play the odds, rationing your ink and your “emotions,” figuring out how
much to give a shit based on if there might be a big enough parade as a
result? Plenty of people do. How many times a day in our lives do we
hear this? How many times do we say it to ourselves and others? Don’t
get involved, you won’t change anything. Don’t get het up, you won’t
change anything. Don’t worry, don’t work, don’t lose sleep, don’t open
your wallet, don’t open your heart, don’t open your mind, don’t laugh,
don’t cry, for God’s sake whatever you do don’t raise your voice. Don’t
say fuck. Don’tcare. As if you have a certain amount of give-a-shit in
you, and you have to portion it out like it’s a bowl of sugar. As if
there should ever be an end to your passionate interest in and advocacy
for the betterment of the environment in which you live.
If you want to know what’s killing interest in commentary from
American newspapers and magazines, it’s this. Not that they’re liberal
or conservative, that they’re empty. That they reinforce with their
institutional voices that the worst sin in society today is to give
enough of a fuck about something that you get upset. Think of David
Brooks, musing in how awful it was that somebody in charge of a war was
quoted accurately. Think of Jeffrey Goldberg wanking on about the
language Dave Weigel uses to say what probably are some of the kindest
things anyone has ever said about Matt Drudge. Think of Joe Klein,
fucking up story after story on FISA but somehow, in his mind, winning
the argument because hey, his critics called him a douchebag. And I’m
about done listening to pundits blame Americans for the lack of
outrage, by the way. These were the same people who, back in 2003, were
characterizing the millions of people who protested the invasion of
Iraq as crazy fucking hippies who didn’t deserve any kind of a listen
because they wore rude T-shirts and smelled like pot.
Your responsibility as a reporter is not to be on the side of most
people, or the most popular people, or the side you think is gonna win.
Zorn continues, after Burge’s ohheylookatthat conviction:
In retrospect, my failure to invest much in the opinion of this jury looks like a bad bet, I admit.
That you considered it a bet at all makes you look much worse.

9 thoughts on “Rationing Your Give-a-Shit

  1. Some tragic magnetic field holds all the wankers firmly in the wanker firmament.
    We can never seem to reach it, penetrate it, reason with it or shut it down.
    Some days it feels like a monkey taking swing after swing at the moon.
    But lovely writing like this makes me feel less alone in my simian anomie.
    Many thanks.

  2. It’s really weird coming from Zorn, who’s actually ridden other cases of law & order malfeasance pretty hard, and rightfully so. Just don’t get it.

  3. Zorn has become an effete anti-journalistic prick. His defense of the Tribune for its total lack of coverage of Scott Lee Cohen prior to last spring’s Democratic primary was a classic of asshattery in which he blamed the voters for not ferreting out Cohen’s abuse of steroids and other unsavory things in his past. And then he accused commenters who complained about the paper’s abject failure of being some sort of conspiracy theorists.
    When I was writing edits and endorsements lo those many years ago, we did not take stands we thought were popular or endorse candidates and ballot issues we thought were going to win. We always made it plain our endorsements and stands on issues were those people and ideas we thought were best for our community.
    Watching journalism evaporate right before my very eyes during the past decade has been a truly remarkable experience.

  4. I love it when you get righteously indignant. The plight of journalism right now makes me indignant but not so righteous. I guess I’ve lost that lovin feelin’

  5. Athenae I’m literally thousands of miles away, on a long trip, and I logged on using my iPhone just to see what was happenning back home. I need to hunt and peck my way to saying this is the best meta piece on journalism i’ve ever read. It deserves to be taught, discussed, filmed and shown every year with live reenactors in costume.
    and talk about damning with faint praise? If I were Eric zorn I’d never be able to get out of bed again after “as good as he has to be.”

  6. Making police torture a federal crime (make it a RICO predicate, so the entire department can be taken down), with no statute of limitations is good.
    Add to that a law that refers *past* torture, where the SOL has run, to the ICC (crime against humanity, baby!) and mandates extradition of suspects that are indicted by the ICC as a result…that would be even better.
    So, of course, na ga ha pen

  7. Wow. Just. Wow.
    I did marry her, and, after that, I’m gonna smoke a cigarette, down some Balvenie and propose all. over. again.

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