No Comment — September 15, 2007, 11:59 am

The ‘B’ham News’ Revs Up the Slime Machine

A No Comment reader who works at the Birmingham News tells us that a certain editor and writer at the illustrious Pravda of the South are royally pissed off at Representative Artur Davis. It seems that Davis’s questions and press releases on the Siegelman case are making a decisive difference in pushing the matter forward. And the reputation of the News, which has played a key role in the anti-Siegelman campaign by giving press cover to the cabal and by disseminating and lending unwarranted credibility to claims of the prosecutors who front for it, is on the line. So what’s the answer? According to my source, the word went out: Slime Artur Davis. If you can’t hit him personally, at least slime some senior aide who works for him. Do it quickly.

I am told that the News will use one of its marquee writers for this, probably one who has been deep in the anti-Siegelman vendetta. Also, the News has been busily poring over the list of Davis’s staffers, family, and other associates to find someone it can land a blow against, hopefully in time for the Sunday edition.

The message that the News wants to deliver is simple: Davis, you’ll shut up if you know what’s good for you. The right adjective for this conduct: thuggish. By a newspaper, moreover. Note: they won’t lift a finger to look into any of the Simpson allegations—all they do is shovel lies attempting to discredit Simpson. And, it seems, anyone else who raises questions about the matter.

It brought back some old memories. Back in the late Soviet period, I worked for Andrei Sakharov and his wife, Elena Bonner, helping out whenever I could, and mostly keeping anxious track of their welfare in a harsh and threatening environment. I remember that when the authorities were angry at Sakharov, they had a number of tools they could use for a sort of graduated response. And one of their favorite tools was to have the media launch an attack—sometimes on Sakharov directly.

But there was a problem with that. After all, Sakharov was a sacrosanct figure, a hero. They didn’t want to publicize the fact that he was critical of them. So it was much easier to take target at someone close to Sakharov. And the favorite target was his wife, Elena Bonner—perhaps the bravest and most determined human rights advocate I ever had the privilege to work with.

One of the most striking incidents related to Efim Davidovich, a Holocaust survivor and then Red Army colonel who sought and was denied permission to emigrate to Israel, and thus became a refusenik. Davidovich played a key role in documenting and publicizing events of shocking anti-Semitism in the former Soviet Union, including one particular incident—the murder of a 14-year-old boy by a group of teenagers whipped into an anti-Semitic rage. But in the view of the justice authorities, there was no anti-Semitism, and the shocking circumstances of the case were therefore officially suppressed.

Davidovich returned his medals as an act of protest over the failure to examine and prosecute this case. And Sakharov and Bonner met with Col. Davidovich to discuss how to advance his case.

In response, and as a caution to get Sakharov to shut up, Pravda published an attack on Elena Bonner, decrying her “anti-Soviet behavior.” She was complaining about the fairness of Soviet justice; she was suggesting that there was anti-Semitism; therefore she was disloyal to the state and deserved to be scapegoated. Sakharov describes this episode in pages 443-45 of his Memoirs.

History, alas, so often repeats itself. In essence what Bonner and Sakharov had done was expose a gross injustice and demand that it be fixed. And that is exactly what Artur Davis has done. But for those who cower in the shadows and who thrive off of this injustice, that was a threatening act. It warranted a reply blow. So tomorrow let us scrutinize the News closely and listen for the echoes of Pravda.

Share
Single Page

More from Scott Horton:

Context, No Comment August 28, 2015, 12:16 pm

Beltway Secrecy

In five easy lessons

From the April 2015 issue

Company Men

Torture, treachery, and the CIA

Six Questions October 18, 2014, 8:00 pm

The APA Grapples with Its Torture Demons: Six Questions for Nathaniel Raymond

Nathaniel Raymond on CIA interrogation techniques.

Get access to 165 years of
Harper’s for only $45.99

United States Canada

CATEGORIES

THE CURRENT ISSUE

September 2015

Weed Whackers

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

Tremendous Machine

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

A Goose in a Dress

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

The Genealogy of Orals

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

view Table Content

FEATURED ON HARPERS.ORG

Article
Romancing Kano·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

I recently spent a semester teaching writing at an elite liberal-arts college. At strategic points around the campus, in shades of yellow and green, banners displayed the following pair of texts. The first was attributed to the college’s founder, which dates it to the 1920s. The second was extracted from the latest version of the institution’s mission statement:

The paramount obligation of a college is to develop in its students the ability to think clearly and independently, and the ability to live confidently, courageously, and hopefully.

leadership
service
integrity
creativity

Let us take a moment to compare these texts. The first thing to observe about the older one is that it is a sentence. It expresses an idea by placing concepts in relation to one another within the kind of structure that we call a syntax. It is, moreover, highly wrought: a parallel structure underscored by repetition, five adverbs balanced two against three.

Article
The Prisoner of Sex·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

“It is disappointing that parts of Purity read as though Franzen urgently wanted to telegraph a message to anyone who would defend his fiction from charges of chauvinism: ‘No, you’ve got me wrong. I really am sexist.’”
Illustration by Shonagh Rae
Article
Gangs of Karachi·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

“In Karachi, sometimes only the thinnest of polite fictions separates the politicians from the men who kill and extort on their behalf.”
Photograph © Asim Rafiqui/NOOR Images
Article
Weed Whackers·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

“Defining 'native' and 'invasive' in an ever-shifting natural world poses some problems. The camel, after all, is native to North America, though it went extinct here 8,000 years ago, while the sacrosanct redwood tree is invasive, having snuck in at some point in the past 65 million years.”
Photograph by Chad Ress
Article
The Neoliberal Arts·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

“College is seldom about thinking or learning anymore. Everyone is running around trying to figure out what it is about. So far, they have come up with buzzwords, mainly those three.”
Artwork by Julie Cockburn

Percentage of Britons who cannot name the city that provides the setting for the musical Chicago:

65

An Australian entrepreneur was selling oysters raised in tanks laced with Viagra.

A naked man believed to be under the influence of LSD rammed his pickup truck into two police cars.

Subscribe to the Weekly Review newsletter. Don’t worry, we won’t sell your email address!

HARPER’S FINEST

Subways Are for Sleeping

By

“Shelby is waiting for something. He himself does not know what it is. When it comes he will either go back into the world from which he came, or sink out of sight in the morass of alcoholism or despair that has engulfed other vagrants.”

Subscribe Today