SIGN IN to access Harper’s Magazine
1. Sign in to Customer Care using your account number or postal address.
2. Select Email/Password Information.
3. Enter your new information and click on Save My Changes.
Subscribers can find additional help here. Not a subscriber? Subscribe today!
Not since Elisabeth Bumiller wrote her famous ode to the threadcount of Dubya’s pillows in the hallowed pages of the New York Times have I seen something quite capable of competing with this. For a few weeks now, I have been pointing out the similarity of the Alabama Newhouse papers (especially the B’ham News and Mobile Press Register) to the Soviet press of the pre-Gorbachev age. They are the golden voice of the Alabama GOP, presenting the world in politically flavored terms, start to finish. But yesterday, the coverage took a turn into territory that tops anything I ever remember in the Soviet press. Now the ’Bama mainstream papers are moving into decidedly North Korean territory. And under the heading of absurd political suck-up to GOP power brokers, what could top this piece which ran yesterday in both the Birmingham News and the Mobile Press-Register adulating Governor Bob Riley as a lovable man of the people:
Gov. Bob Riley doesn’t leave home without his cowboy boots. The owner of about a dozen pairs — all size 12 — Riley wears cowboy boots every day and almost everywhere. He’s worn boots to areas damaged by tornadoes, to his daughters’ weddings, to news conferences, fund-raisers, speeches and international economic recruiting trips. In April, he hosted a delegation from the Hubei Provincial People’s Congress of China wearing a black alligator pair.
Cowboy boots are the staple of Riley’s wardrobe. “I had all my tuxedoes and my suits tailored for a pair of boots,” Riley said. “Actually, that’s when I wear the alligator most of the time. They are as formal as any dress shoe you will ever buy.”
The cowboy boot — the most iconic of American footwear — had its origins in the poorly made Civil War cavalry boots, according to Jennifer June, author of “Cowboy Boots: The Art & Sole.” Some shoe historians attribute the origins of western bootmaking to the constant repair work required by this repurposed military footwear, June wrote. Bootmakers designed the cowboy boot to meet the needs of someone working in stirrups, she wrote.
Here’s an exercise. Read the entire piece substituting the words “Beloved Leader” for Riley. Now, doesn’t that work better? Recommended art: a socialist realism scene, Riley surrounded by adoring children, bringing him flowers. And they’ve thoughtfully provided Riley’s boot size, so admirers out there can give Riley a favorite pair (be sure it’s alligator, too). Don’t worry about these gifts being seen as political bribes, when extended with request for favors. Riley is a Republican.
There isn’t any news in the B’ham News, but, oh my, there sure is a lot of boot-licking.
More from Scott Horton:
Six Questions — October 18, 2014, 8:00 pm
Nathaniel Raymond on CIA interrogation techniques.
Mark Denbeaux on the NCIS cover-up of three “suicides” at Guantánamo Bay Detention Camp
From the June 2014 issue
Acres of hemp grown by “patriotic‚” U.S. farmers in 1942 at the behest of the U.S. government:
A study suggested that the health effects of exposure to nuclear radiation at Chernobyl were no worse than ill health resulting from smoking and normal urban air pollution.
Greenpeace apologized after activists accidentally defaced the site of Peru’s 2,000-year-old Nazca Lines when they unfurled cloth letters reading “time for change” near the ancient sand drawings. “We fully understand,” the group wrote in a statement, “that this looks bad.”
Subscribe to the Weekly Review newsletter. Don’t worry, we won’t sell your email address!
“I hope that after reading the following pages the leaders of the Y. M. C. A. will start a campaign to induce good young men to do nothing. If so, I shall not have lived in vain.”