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Helen Thomas: Stenographer with Attitude

A funny satire on the Helen Thomas story jokes that Ari Fleisher, who appeared on cable news shows to condemn Thomas, is, politically speaking, a completely irrelevant person. But when did Thomas’ opinions begin to make waves? It seemed before this, when she has actually said things of substance, she was the butt of everyone’s misogynist and ageist jokes. So why does putting your foot in your mouth make everyone take you more seriously?

Once current events reminded me that Helen Thomas is indeed alive, I didn’t think much of it. Michael Young at Beirut’s Daily Star thinks that journalists, Thomas included, are often little more than stenographers with attitude. I’m inclined to agree. Journalists are conduits for information that need to be angry enough not to get taken advantage of by Power. There are other things, but being angry and covetous of one’s pride are important journalistic standards. The more mild-mannered, politically correct journalists we demand, the more passively we will begin to consume information fed to us by the hand of Power.

Robert was perhaps the first to say he appreciated Thomas’ obnoxious character. It is telling that so many news outlets have taken Thomas’ outburst on Jews as the extent of her opinion about the Israel/Palestine mess, especially since Thomas has explained her positions more fully in several written and video interviews which are part of the public record. At the 4:08 point in this Real News interview, Thomas draws on her decades of reporting experience to make clear her thoughts on the Middle East. She recently gave an interview to Vice Magazine, too, in which she demonstrates her thoughts do not fit neatly into a thirty second clip.

As Paul Jay points out, what Thomas said was not anti-Semitic, nor is she (likely) an anti-Semitic person. As I am about to point out, I doubt she was unfairly pressured into retiring. I bet the old Betty got one word of the controversy caused by her comments on Israel, let go some curse words at the silliness of it all, and quit with a flourish.


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