What Fresh Hell Is This?

April 3, 2011

Scaife's Tantrum Continues

With this from the Trib:

For those who don't know what's going on, we'll turn (wisely and reverently) to Potter's Slag Heap:
I've often thought of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review's editorial page as a form of performance art: Reading it is like watching a performance by Karen Finley ... except when it's time to simulate the smearing around of fecal matter, the creators use newspaper ink instead of chocolate.

Even so, I never thought of the Trib's editorial page as a place to find art criticism. Until today, with the publication of this rather singular piece of journalism.

Headlined "A slip and a slap at the Carnegie," the unsigned editorial denounces the Carnegie for the marketing of its current exhibit, Paul Thek: Diver. [Italics in original.]
Potter finds the bud of the bud:
On the one hand, [The Trib editorial board] affects to be speaking for us dumb yinzers, who just like art if it's got pretty "kellers" n'at. On the other hand, the paper's real gripe is with cultural institutions who ignore the demands of wealthy elites -- the people who "butter its bread."
It's because of this:

From the Trib's art criticism:
But what's even more tasteless is that for one of the billboards used to promote the retrospective, the Carnegie chose a Thek work that features the phrase "Afflict the Comfortable, Comfort the Afflicted" in yellow paint surrounded by a sea of purple.

The saying is a variation of one coined by late 19th- and early 20th-century journalist/humorist Finley Peter Dunne, actually part of a much larger cautioning against some newspapers' proclivity to misuse their power. Since that era, the phrase has been roundly misemployed -- interpreted literally -- by liberal media types and their oftentimes socialist acolytes.
For what it's worth, the Trib's braintrust underplays Dunne's quotation - and inadvertantly gets caught in it's own sticky. For some background into Dunne's line, here's journalist and writer Michael Geffner:
Comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable. “In the 1960 movie Inherit the Wind, an H.L. Mencken-like newspaper editor says, ‘It is the duty of a newspaper to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable.’ Credit for this credit gets passed around. In his 1942 quotation collection, Mencken attributed the saying as ‘author unidentified’ – although Mencken himself is sometimes thought to have been that author. (He was prone to quoting himself anonymously.) Four decades before Mencken’s collection was published, however, Finley Peter Dunne wrote this observation by his philosophizing bartender, Mr. Dooley: “The newspaper does ivrything f’r us. It runs th’ polis force an’ th’ ligislachure, baptizes th’ young, marries th’ foolish, comforts th’ afflicted, afflicts th’ comfortable, buries th’ dead and’ roasts thim aftherward.”
It's a complaint about the level of power exercised by all the media (not just some, as the Braintrust self-servingly tried to assert). I would imagine Dooley shaking his head at a newspaper trying to influence, for example, the administration of a museum.

Potter, thatlousybastid, puts it much better (of course):
Hmmm ... newspapers that abuse their own power? You don't say. I can see why a paper owned by Richard Mellon Scaife wouldn't want me to interpret such a warning literally. If you did that, after all, you might suspect that the publisher could be using his paper's editorial page to settle a personal grievance.

For lo! That "afflict the comfortable" business is, it seems, disrespecting wealthy benefactors ... like the ancestors of Mr. Scaife himself!
And then:
But what's really interesting about this editorial is not what it says about the museum ... but what it suggests about the Trib's ideas of philanthrophy. Apparently, the Trib believes that once you take money from a rich person, you are to consider yourself bought and sold. You are never to say anything that your benefactor -- or his heirs -- might disapprove of. When you take a check from a guy with a lot of money, in other words, you are supposed to be his bitch, forever.

That, I'm guessing, is what it means to be Dick Scaife's editorial writer. Similar rules may apply to the numerous think tanks that have been bankrolled with Scaife's money. Whether such rules should apply to a museum, however, is a matter for debate.
I don't think there's much debate on this point for Richard Mellon Scaife. You take his money you do as he says.

The tantrum continues.

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