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The Public Truss
May 19, 2005 7:42 AM   Subscribe

Recent events have shown that media can kill. Sometimes it's couched as propaganda, and other times it's just bad reporting. But what happens when media breaks the public trust? Is the New York Times Chickensh*t? According to one reporter from the New York Observer, the Times fell asleep in safeguarding the public interest over the sale of a major painting to the Wal-Mart heiress.
posted by Mme. Robot (44 comments total)

 
Nothing like a good old fashioned art brawl. somebody go dig up Clement Greenberg.

Thanks.
posted by Harry Lime at 7:47 AM on May 19, 2005


The Old Gray Lady is looking rather pale these days. I love this paper more than any other, but this is one more reminder of its fading glory.
posted by caddis at 7:48 AM on May 19, 2005


Recent events have shown that media can kill.

I take it this is referring to the controversy around the Newsweek article, which anyone with half a brain knows is a bullshit White House ploy.

But what happens when media breaks the public trust?

The Times printed a front page article and some editorials on the matter. Beyond that, what are they supposed to do? Drag Ms. Walton out of her house and beat her senseless?

She bought a painting. Big fucking deal. It's not a scandal on the level of, say, providing faulty information to the public so they can enter into a bullshit war.
posted by fungible at 7:57 AM on May 19, 2005


She bought a painting. Big fucking deal. It's not a scandal on the level of, say, providing faulty information to the public so they can enter into a bullshit war.

Agreed: If the NY Times is chickenshit, it's because they reprinted Bush's lies deliberately and without any fact-checking.
posted by AlexReynolds at 8:02 AM on May 19, 2005


She is going to put it in a museum, in Arkansas, so the public interest in New York might feel cheated but I bet the one in Bentonville is quite happy.
posted by PenDevil at 8:03 AM on May 19, 2005


I take it this is referring to the controversy around the Newsweek article, which anyone with half a brain knows is a bullshit White House ploy.

Are you referring to the article itself being a ploy, or the controversy surrounding it? It seems like the outrage had spread pretty quickly before anyone at the White House had even commented on it. Not sure what you're implying, re: the White House's role.
posted by jenleigh at 8:03 AM on May 19, 2005


Media can kill? Is that a Newsweek reference? Even the chairman of the Joint Chiefs stated that the unrest in Afghanistan preceded the article.
posted by socratic at 8:04 AM on May 19, 2005


err, yeah: it was a reference to Newsweek. And they did retract their story. i'm not sure what the rest of the political diatribe is about. Aside from that, when hasn't propaganda/media had a powerful sword?

The point that the New York Observer makes is that the Times voiced their outrage after the fact rather than trying to do anything about it when they could have.
posted by Mme. Robot at 8:10 AM on May 19, 2005


And why the fowl language?

Because they're chickenshit?

I'm confused, what's stavros have to do with this again?
posted by Floydd at 8:12 AM on May 19, 2005


Is the New York Times Chickensh*t?

Duh, yes!

Recent events have shown that media can kill. Sometimes it's couched as propaganda, and other times it's just bad reporting.

Reference Judith Miller for "media can kill", "propaganda" and "bad reporting" all rolled into one hack. Newsweek is chickens*it only in that it retracted the story and is guilty of reporting the truth. Michael Isikoff, OTOH, is on the same level as Judith Miller.

Who owns what painting means little to 99.9999% of the people in the world. [yeah, I made that number up, just like Judith Miller would do]
posted by nofundy at 8:15 AM on May 19, 2005


The point that the New York Observer makes is that the Times voiced their outrage after the fact rather than trying to do anything about it when they could have.

If you're referring to the Newsweek article, then the rest of the "political diatribe" is basically answering your question about whether the NY Times is run by moral cowards.

If you're referring to the Observer's critique of the NY Times' handling of this art story, then relative to rest of the problems with the Times, the operative phrase is "rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic."
posted by AlexReynolds at 8:27 AM on May 19, 2005


I thought you had - that last 9 should be a 4. Any road, what's wrong with the Newsweek story is that it's out of date by about two years. Remind you of the Indian Mutiny?
posted by TimothyMason at 8:29 AM on May 19, 2005


"Recent events have shown that media can kill."

I'm guessing you are talking about Newsweek and the Koran. If so, you are dead wrong. If not, I apologize in advance.

General Richard Myers -- head of the Joint Chiefs of Staff -- said in front of Congress that the riots in Afghanistan were not due to Newsweek, but to ongoing unrest that had been boiling up for months. (Search for the word "Eikenberry" to find the section)

It is also important to note that the violence started BEFORE Newsweek hit the stands.

It is even more important to note that the rumors of Koran desecration have been public for more than a year.

The story was previously published, the violence started before Newsweek published it, and the General in charge of Afghanistan said it had nothing to do with the violence.

Newsweek did not lie, and did not cause the deaths of anything but reading standards in America.
posted by nathanrudy at 8:29 AM on May 19, 2005


fungible, you are right. They printed a front page article identifying the sale on April 29 an an op-ed piece decrying the upcoming sale on May 9 (although this second one may have been too late to make a difference). I should have done some fact checking before I dumped on them. Here is the Times after sale lament and the NYO's retort. It is starting to look like the stinkers here are the NYPL and Mr. and Mrs. Marron, but I would need to do more fact checking to really assert that.
posted by caddis at 8:32 AM on May 19, 2005


The actual Observer article, rather than a blog commentary on it.

The American galleries at the Met always seemed like the poor step-sister to the European ones. Even on a busy day they can be deserted. And one of the major galleries is used as an example of how they used to fill the wall with paintings -- which is really lame if you actually like those paintings that are at the top. I think this painting will be better off in Arkansas.
posted by smackfu at 8:33 AM on May 19, 2005


Recent events have shown that the media can kill.

This is nonsense. As far as I know nobody has been bludgeoned to death with a copy of the Wall Street Journal or had their head explode from watching CNN.

It would be more accurate to say that murderous assholes will grasp at any straw available if it helps them to justify their beliefs. This applies equally to Muslim fanatics overseas reacting to badly sourced news stories and to far right fanatics right here, in the Good Ol' US-of-A, reacting to the wholesale printing of blatant lies as facts and the parroting of administration talking points and calling it news.
posted by cedar at 8:35 AM on May 19, 2005


"had their head explode from watching CNN"

Didn't this happen to Jon Stewart? Or maybe he only saw it happen.
posted by nathanrudy at 8:43 AM on May 19, 2005


Doesn't look like a very good painting, anyway.
posted by kickingtheground at 8:47 AM on May 19, 2005


smackfu... i already posted the Observer link above, in addition. The Met and the Nat. Gallery were bidding on the work jointly. It very well may have gone to DC.
posted by Mme. Robot at 8:48 AM on May 19, 2005


Last week, I attended a discrete conference on American Landscape painting, sponsored by NYU.

Meaning, I assume, that the conference didn't sprawl all over Manhattan, or get cozy with some other conferences?
posted by kenko at 8:56 AM on May 19, 2005


"Doesn't look like a very good painting, anyway."

ah yes, another one of those really bad $35 million dollar paintings.
posted by Mme. Robot at 9:00 AM on May 19, 2005


She bought a painting. Big fucking deal.

The "big fucking deal" is that she bought the painting from a public institution, (the library) that should be caring for cultural artifacts, not selling them to the highest bidder. That the Times didn't attempt to derail this is regrettable. But the real scandal here is the selling of a work that was in the collection of a nonprofit public institution. By definition, this painting belonged to the people of NY. The library had NO right to sell it.
posted by R. Mutt at 9:04 AM on May 19, 2005


So all expensive art is good art?
posted by smackfu at 9:05 AM on May 19, 2005


fungible, you are right.

I am? Wow, that's a first. Cool!

And yeah, the White House ploy I'm referring to is the manufactured outrage. When Scott McClellan said "People died because of this mistake!" (paraphrasing) my irony and outrage meter pegged in the stratosphere.
posted by fungible at 9:07 AM on May 19, 2005


"So all expensive art is good art?"

i don't know... maybe that there was a bidding war between a billionairess and the Metropolitan Museum of Art / National Gallery in DC might have tipped you off that perhaps the painting was a little more sophisticated than a .jpg
posted by Mme. Robot at 9:10 AM on May 19, 2005


She bought a painting. Big fucking deal.

The "big fucking deal" is that she bought the painting from a public institution, (the library) that should be caring for cultural artifacts, not selling them to the highest bidder. That the Times didn't attempt to derail this is regrettable. But the real scandal here is the selling of a work that was in the collection of a nonprofit public institution. By definition, this painting belonged to the people of NY. The library had NO right to sell it.


Very democratic (small d) of you. Perhaps the library board should convene a citizen's council everytime they need to buy or sell books? Perhaps the citizens of NY themselves should be outraged that their fellow citizens steal books/media that they have no right to steal from the library which belong to ALL the citizens of NY? Oh, the scandal! Public money wasted! Alert the rest of the media--I am sure that this is the first time that public institutions have abused the public trust. Let's hope it's the last!

What I really want to know is how all of those European cities were so irresponsible as to let their paintings wind up in New York?

The artworld by and large is run on the excess capital of the rich buying a few baubles for their amusement. That some of them "allow" us, the unwashed to view it for a mere $15 "suggested donation" (last I checked at the Art Institute of Chicago) is a blessing upon us for which we all bow down.

Really. The outrage over whether this painting is in NYC or BF Arkansas is soooo overblown.
posted by beelzbubba at 9:19 AM on May 19, 2005


Just for the record...

Not that anyone will pay attention...

What Newsweek reported was that a particular internal military review was expected to report that the Quran was flushed down a toiler.

What they retracted was that the events will be reported in that particular review.

They never directly claimed the desecration happened. They never claimed it did NOT happen.

Their retraction was NEITHER confirmation nor denial of ANYTHING except what might be said in that one report.

This would all be so much less of a big deal had everyone not immediately jumped to conclusions all over the place.
posted by InnocentBystander at 9:21 AM on May 19, 2005


There are sooooo many things in the world that outrage me. But I just can't get worked up about a single painting being moved from one state collection to another. Maybe my outrage tank is empty.

On preview, what beelzbubba said.
posted by brain_drain at 9:26 AM on May 19, 2005


On one hand, a loopy rich heiress wants to buy an ugly painting for $35 million. On the other hand, that $35 million can buy an awful lot of new books.

I'd like to see the Observer and Times put media pressure on the NY Public Library to make sure the revenue is not spent on higher salaries and benefits for Library management, but instead focused on improving services and materials.

The real tragedy/outrage would be if this was sold by a public, taxpayer-funded institution for the gain of a few at the top.
posted by AlexReynolds at 9:34 AM on May 19, 2005


So, Mme. Robot. This E. Tage Larsen, he a friend of yours?
posted by Floydd at 9:35 AM on May 19, 2005


On one hand, a loopy rich heiress wants to buy an ugly painting for $35 million. On the other hand, that $35 million can buy an awful lot of new books.

They could sell off their entire rare book collection too, imagine how many new books they buy with that.
posted by R. Mutt at 9:42 AM on May 19, 2005


The what now?

I think any NYC agencies with paintings worth >$35 million should sell 'em off, build some decent elementary schools, and give the teachers significant raises. Just a thought.

Churchill’s neat tripartite apothegm fairly flew into my mind the other day as I contemplated certain aspects of the process by which Asher Durand’s Kindred Spirits will be translated—in the manner of the Holy House of Loreto, but with Mammon doing the work once reserved for angels—from this thriving and borborygmic metropolis to Bentonville, Ark.

I hate New York some times.
posted by mrgrimm at 9:43 AM on May 19, 2005


Even if the Koran-down-the-crapper was false (which I doubt), it pales in comparison to fake-menstrual-blood-bosom-rubbing.

Thanks, Don Rumsfeld.
posted by bardic at 9:45 AM on May 19, 2005


They could sell off their entire rare book collection too, imagine how many new books they buy with that.

I can't tell but I guess you're being cynical? A library benefits more from books, by definition, than hanging rare paintings on its walls. Let museums and stupid rich people have fun with paintings. Let the library focus on its mission of providing public access to books, old and new.
posted by AlexReynolds at 9:48 AM on May 19, 2005


The NYPL has a lot of art work. And some great shows too!!!

Sure the money will go towards their endowment but like the Observer points out: aren't there better ways of going about this? Like giving the Met a better chance or how many donations might they lose out on in the future if everything's for sale?

Floydd, just a fan of the site. Why isn't there more arts coverage on mefi?
posted by Mme. Robot at 10:29 AM on May 19, 2005


If anyone wants to get outraged about the sale of public goods to private entities I would think that the sale of public non-profit hospitals, built by tax dollars and donations, to hospital corporations such as the Frist family owns, would peg the meter quicker than one painting. Who's with me?
posted by nofundy at 10:30 AM on May 19, 2005


"They could sell off their entire rare book collection too, imagine how many new books they buy with that."

nice.
posted by Harry Lime at 10:39 AM on May 19, 2005


" Recent events have shown that media can kill."

And Al Gore said he invented the internet.
Take your lame-ass right wing bullshit elsewhere.
posted by 2sheets at 11:04 AM on May 19, 2005


Woot, Arkansas wins again! Thankoo, Wal-Mart!
posted by weretable and the undead chairs at 11:10 AM on May 19, 2005


what happens when media breaks the public trust?
---------------------------------------------------------------------

We have no more investigative reporting, we have a press that is nothing but a faithful megaphone to a corrupt government, we have no freedom of the press guaranteed by the constitution, we have the fairness doctrine struck down, we have a press that is more relevant to a stalinist state than to the U.S. That and much more. Or much less, depending on how you look at it.
posted by mk1gti at 2:30 PM on May 19, 2005


mk1gti, that may be true for the so called "MSM" but here we are, and there are so many blogs, web sites, small news outlets and the like to get the word out. The unwashed masses are unimpressed and coked up on FOX, but getting the word out has never been easier. Getting it to everyone is now the problem. The big boys are self censoring over fears that the liberal media bias charge might stick. They know their personal feelings lean left, even if they try to report objectively, so the bias charge hits home. Couple that with some real media tragedies such as Damn Rather's flame out and the big boys have become timid.
posted by caddis at 6:58 PM on May 19, 2005


Artnet's take on "a backroom transaction"
posted by R. Mutt at 8:03 PM on May 19, 2005


R. Mutt, thanks for the artnet link.
posted by Mme. Robot at 9:35 AM on May 20, 2005


[deleted an accidental double comment post]
posted by jessamyn at 5:14 PM on May 20, 2005


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