No Comment — July 16, 2009, 10:17 am

The Winger Media Shows Its Teeth

The saga of Mark Sanford and his “hike on the Appalachian Trail” may be just another story of a lovesick family-values Republican. But some of the developments on the periphery are worth some attention. Columbia’s The State, which has done yeoman work on the story from the start, followed up with a routine Freedom of Information Act request. And what it netted is extremely revealing. For instance,

Gov. Mark Sanford’s chief of staff, Scott English, called the governor’s cell phones 15 times during the governor’s secret trip to Argentina to visit his lover last month. But the governor never picked up.

But still more curious is the evidence recorded of the reactions of media players. The comments make some of these journalists look like members of Sanford’s extended public relations team. Prominent examples:

A staffer with The Washington Times wrote in an e-mail that “if you all want to speak on this publicly, you’re welcome to Washington Times Radio. You know that you will be on friendly ground here!”

On June 23, a Fox News Channel correspondent wrote to Sawyer, “Having known the Governor for years and even worked with him when he would host radio shows for me — I find this story and the media frenzy surrounding it to be absolutely ridiculous! Please give him my best.”

Reflecting the curious state of relations between the editorial page and news room at the Wall Street Journal, the new flagship of the Murdoch print empire, “associate editor Brendan Miniter… called the WSJ’s first-day coverage bunk. ‘Someone at WSJ should be fired for today’s story. Ridiculous,’ Miniter wrote.”

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Nobody in academia had ever witnessed or even heard of a performance like this before. In just a few years, in the early 1950s, a University of Pennsylvania graduate student — a student, in his twenties — had taken over an entire field of study, linguistics, and stood it on its head and hardened it from a spongy so-called “social science” into a real science, a hard science, and put his name on it: Noam Chomsky.

At the time, Chomsky was still finishing his doctoral dissertation for Penn, where he had completed his graduate-school course work. But at bedtime and in his heart of hearts he was living in Boston as a junior member of Harvard’s Society of Fellows, and creating a Harvard-level name for himself.

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