March 11, 2014

Joe McGinniss, the journalist who harassed Sarah Palin, dead at 71.

Too bad to put in a life's work and have something creepy that you did be the #1 thing many or most people attach to your name when they see that you died.

"The Selling of the President" was a great exposé of the what it takes to run for President. As the NYT puts it in the obituary (linked above):
When Mr. McGinniss published “The Selling of the President,” his famous account of Richard M. Nixon’s television-centered campaign in 1969, he was only 26. The book went behind the scenes with President Nixon’s consultants and became a model for political reporting.
1969, eh? Come on NYT! How hard is it to get the presidential election years right? Especially 1968. 1968 was by far the most dramatic election year of the 13 presidential election years I've watched personally. (I lived through 2 others, but I paid zero attention.) [ADDED: Alternatively, "in 1969" is a the old "misplaced modifier" error.]

Here's the image of Nixon on a pack of cigarettes I've been looking at on the paperback book that's been on my bookshelf for 4 decades:



1968 — the year was even in the title (at the time, not now). Back then, the year made the title funnier, because we understood that the book was a cheeky departure from the sober observations of Theodore H. White in his "The Making of the President 1960" and "The Making of the President 1964." In more noble times, Presidents were made, but the message was the times are now debased, and some imposter, undeserving of the presidency, posed for a bunch of ads. Advertising — !!!! — is used to sell the President and this — this! — is what we got stuck with. Blech! Ashtray mouth!!!

McGinnis also wrote "Fatal Vision," about "the murder trial of Jeffrey MacDonald, an Army doctor and a Green Beret accused of killing his pregnant wife and 2 daughters."
Mr. McGinniss lived with Dr. MacDonald’s defense team during the trial and eventually decided that the jury’s guilty verdict was correct.
One of my favorite books ever, "The Journalist and the Murderer," by Janet Malcolm, examines the relationship between a journalist (McGinniss) and his subject (MacDonald). The subject imagines the journalist will be his friend and mouthpiece, getting his story out, and the journalist has every reason to help him think that — every reason if you don't count honesty, decency, and true friendship... and how much honesty, decency, and true friendship is deserved by a man who has killed his pregnant wife and 2 daughters?

So... farewell to Joe McGinniss, who rode the pop culture end of journalism for a good long time.

49 comments:

Michael said...

I had to read the NYT's 1st sentence a couple of times, but they're saying he published the book in 1969. I'm not sure why that's more important than the year that's actually in the title.

Ron said...

It's hilarious that the guy says that "politics has become the entertainment industry" about Palin ignoring the one who actually got elected telling us that running his campaign was his qualification for the job.

Shouting Thomas said...

One of the favorite propaganda books assigned by English profs back when I was a sophomore in college.

At the time (1969), the explanation for why the book was so important that it ranked with Dickens' classics was that we were raw hicks from the stix who needed to be wised up about the corruption of the political process.

Many years later, it's obvious that the profs were Democratic hacks indoctrinating their students in the inherently vile nature of Republicans and, in particular, Richard Nixon.

The abuse of students by profs browbeating them with leftist propaganda is not a new phenomenon.

Shouting Thomas said...

The NY Times continues the long tradition of pretending that only Republicans spend vast sums of money and engage in deceptive advertising with this mornings wild denunciation of the Koch Bros.

St. George said...

If Nixon was cigarettes, then Humphrey was what? Cigars? A toad? Daffodils?

(And, fyi, Humphrey (what a name!) was the guy Duke law school graduate Nixon ran against, Johnson's Vice-President. )

EDH said...

Obama is Nixon repeating itself, as farce.

virgil xenophon said...

Gary Wills' work "Nixon Agonistes: The Crises of the Self-Made Man" is a much better, more analytical all-encompassing work--to include his analysis of the election campaign.

RecChief said...

Layers of fact checkers and editors over there at the NYT.

I think Michael is correct (first comment) though.

Xmas said...

Michael,

Check the commas in the sentence. The way they are placed puts the campaign in 1969 not the publishing of the book. The writer or editor left off a comma, or they should have moved the descriptive phrase to before the book title.

Ann Althouse said...

"I had to read the NYT's 1st sentence a couple of times, but they're saying he published the book in 1969. I'm not sure why that's more important than the year that's actually in the title."

Good point. It's a bad grammar error then, not a mistaken fact. The phrase that appears in print is "Richard M. Nixon’s television-centered campaign in 1969," but they may have thought they were saying: "When Mr. McGinniss published “The Selling of the President,”... in 1969."

It's the old "misplaced modifier" problem.

Pogo is Dead said...

"...sensational allegations about the family, including the claim that Ms. Palin had taken drugs when she was young."

Preezy Choom nods.

tim maguire said...

If McGinnis didn't want to be remembered for the most creepy thing he ever did, he shouldn't have done something that would creep out any normal person. At least not so publicly.

The subject imagines the journalist will be his friend and mouthpiece, getting his story out, and the journalist has every reason to help him think that. Every reason if you don't count honesty, decency, and true friendship

Sounds like In Cold Blood.

Tank said...

Too bad to put in a life's work and have something creepy that you did be the #1 thing many or most people attach to your name when they see that you died.

Schadenfreude?

Or ... he deserves this.

traditionalguy said...

McGinnis moving into a house in Alaska was a visual to lend credence to his work of fiction written long before he had made his PR trip.

Pogo is Dead said...

It may be better to burn out than to fade away,

But as you get older, you want to stay.

My my hey hey.

Fen said...

Was this the moron that moved next door to the Palins so he could spy on them with bino's all day and night?

What a creep. Good riddance.

Stepper said...

" Pogo is Dead said...

It may be better to burn out than to fade away,

But as you get older, you want to stay.

My my hey hey."

Love this. Thank you for making my day :)

Larry J said...

This reminds me of an old quote:

“I've never wished a man dead, but I have read some obituaries with great pleasure.”

― Clarence Darrow

CWJ said...

I've not read the book. But, I find it interesting that Nixon lost in 1960 partly because he was ill prepared for televised debates. And yet, 8 years later his win is credited to the effective use of TV.

dreams said...

He was a real scumbag, I say good riddance.

AJ Lynch said...

Joe McGinniss was considered a "Philly boy makes it big"
back in the day. I think he got his start at one of the Philly papers- perhaps it was the Evening & Sunday Bulletin where I drove a truck in college [Teamsters Local 628!]

gerry said...

Was this the moron that moved next door to the Palins so he could spy on them with bino's all day and night?

What a creep. Good riddance.


"Farewell" may not be appropriate.

MadisonMan said...

Here's the image of Nixon on a pack of cigarettes I've been looking at on the paperback book that's been on my bookshelf for 4 decades:

4 decades? How often do you read it?

Maybe it's time for some house-cleaning.

He seemed younger than mid-60s to me back in the Palin-harassing stories I saw some years back. Maybe I'm just older now.

virgil xenophon said...

The artwork on the paperback depicting Nixon as a pack of cigarettes was another bit of lefty propaganda.i.e., the public was being sold something that was bad for them--perhaps fatal. This engendered quite a bit of conservative back-lash and when the book was re-printed the package depicted was a box of dish-washing detergent instead. But of course this was just the lefties' fall-back position from the totally obvious. The take-away from THAT art-work was definitely not "Mr Clean" but the subliminal message that the public was being "brain-washed" by clever PR tactics. TRUST ME, those two covers were not chosen absent-mindedly..

virgil xenophon said...

PS: Or was it laundry-detergent? The fossilizing mind fogs..

betamax3000 said...

fromwiki:

MacDonald sued McGinniss in 1984, alleging that McGinniss pretended to believe MacDonald innocent after he came to the conclusion that MacDonald was guilty, in order to continue MacDonald's cooperation with him. After a six-week civil trial that resulted in a hung jury, McGinniss's publisher's insurance company chose to settle out of court with MacDonald for $325,000. There was a later book about the MacDonald case by Jerry Allen Potter and Fred Bost called Fatal Justice that was a counterattack to Fatal Vision. Potter and Bost professed that MacDonald was innocent and that McGinniss's book was wildly inaccurate. They pointed to various parts of the book they claimed were untrue. For example, McGinnis proposed a theory that MacDonald killed his wife and children during a psychotic episode brought on by his use of diet pills. At the trial, McGinnis was forced to admit under oath that he had no hard evidence to support this theory and it may not have happened at all.[3] Judge Ross split the money between Mildred Kassab and Dorothy MacDonald, the MacDonald lawyers, with Jeffrey MacDonald being allowed to keep the rest. Neither side filed an appeal.[3] Judge Ross likened McGinniss's conduct to that of "a thief in the night," then he corrected himself, saying, "I guess a thief in the night wouldn't see you. He is more of a con man than he is a thief."

I've read "Fatal Justice": you don't have to believe in innocence or guilt to come away with serious misgivings about the deceased's journalism.

zregime said...

Sign o' the times. The current leadership of our friends across the aisle are pretty much ALL old people. Ours (Rand, Rubio, Sarah, Christie, et al) are a full generation younger. Plus, our women - including you, Ann! - are way smarter than theirs not to mention prettier. Take heart, folks...we got this. We're gonna right the ship. Hate and vitriol are not things that lengthen one's life.

Ann Althouse said...

"4 decades? How often do you read it?"

I said I've been looking at the image on the cover, not opening it up and rereading it.

I've only read the whole thing twice or maybe only once.

I've read parts many times.

But that cover picture is unforgettable. Selling the President felt outrageous back then, but today, a presidential candidate is regarded as completely incompetent if he can't sell himself in TV commercials and everywhere else.

Jim O said...

Ann, the book was published in 1969. That is what the sentence that the Times wrote says. I never cared much for the guy, and I care even less for the NYT, but you jumped the gun there.

Big Mike said...

It's the old "misplaced modifier" problem.

Or a word mistakenly deleted. The sentence makes some sense if it reads "When Mr. McGinniss published “The Selling of the President,” his famous account of Richard M. Nixon’s television-centered campaign published in 1969, he was only 26." But the double appearance of the word "published" makes the sentence very awkward. So someone simply deleted the second use of the word. They'd have done better to split the sentence into two thoughts.

That's my best guess.

Oh, and what betamax wrote at 8:36 is true. I'd like to think I would have voted to acquit MacDonald had I been on the jury.

Surellin said...

Heh, I thought of the idea that the author intended to say that the book was published in 1969 too. Problem is, the first printings were in 1968 from Trident Press. I have OCLC right here, so I can look up bibliographical arcana like that.

MadRiverBlogger said...

In 1968, the general public knew more about Richard Nixon than perhaps any other previous Presidential candidate. He couldn't be "sold".
If you want to find out what the press didn't tell us in 1972, read the ebook "Watergate Fiction".

Michael K said...

"There was a later book about the MacDonald case by Jerry Allen Potter and Fred Bost called Fatal Justice that was a counterattack to Fatal Vision. "

I read both books and still am not sure MacDonald was guilty. I never met him; he worked in the ER of Long Beach Memorial Hospital before the ex-father-in-law was able to get him in the trial.

Two friends of mine knew him when they were residents and spent time at Long Beach Memorial. They didn't think he was guilty but one said he was odd and could have been. Still, after what he went through, I would be odd, too.

Michael K said...

The best book on Nixon, I think, is Conrad Black's book, Nixon, a Life in Full. Black's version may have benefited by the experience of having vicious enemies like Nixon had.

DANEgerus said...

I had heard Satan was building a really tall spite fence blocking the rental house next door... know I know why.

William said...

I always thought the book that Janet Malcolm wrote about him was more significant and important than any book he ever wrote. If he's remembered best for creepy tactics against Sarah Palin, it will be a step up for him.

Fen said...

"This is a man who has been relentlessly stalking my family to the point of moving in right next door to us to harass us and spy on us to satisfy his creepy obsession with my wife,"

Where is this creep going to be buried?

section9 said...

Sarah Palin made one great mistake in her relationship with Fox News Channel.

That was in not having her people explore the friendship formed between Joe McGinniss and Roger Ailes during the Nixon Campaign in 1968.

The two were close friends.

Think on that for a moment.

Larry Nelson said...

I was living in Alaska in 1980 when "Going to Extremes" was published. The media in Alaska pushed it hard, so I tried to read it. Maybe not my style of reading, but I just didn't find the stories interesting to me because I was already living the adventure.

When he showed up next door to Sarah Palin a few years ago, it did seem kind of creepy. Wasilla has a small town mentality where there is no trouble finding jealous wannabe's who resent the success of an attractive woman.

mccullough said...

Another fabulist bites the dust.

Larry Nelson said...

"The Selling of the President" is a favorite expose of elites who ironically like to sell their own candidates.
Projection much?

richardsson said...

Joe McGinniss was like a lot of rock and roll acts from the 1960's, a one hit wonder. At one point, he was considered the next Tom Wolfe, but he had nowhere near the narrative skills of Tom Wolfe. I think he seduced and deceived Nixon and Roger Ailes about the nature of his book. After the Selling of the President, his sources and subjects in politics dried up. You only get that chance once. With the Sarah Palin episode, he fell victim to a false media narrative (Sarah Palin is dunce, a stupid hillbilly) and ended up becoming the joke with his bizarre antics.

Koblog said...

Yeah, Kennedy wasn't "sold."

And Johnson would surely have been president if he had not been Kennedy's distrusted and largely ignored (think Biden) vice president.

And both Wilson and FDR ran on keeping us out of European wars

No, the democrats have never sold us a president under false pretenses.

richardsson said...

Joe McGinniss was like a lot of rock and roll acts from the 1960's, a one hit wonder. At one point, he was considered the next Tom Wolfe, but he had nowhere near the narrative skills of Tom Wolfe. I think he seduced and deceived Nixon and Roger Ailes about the nature of his book. After the Selling of the President, his sources and subjects in politics dried up. You only get that chance once. With the Sarah Palin episode, he fell victim to a false media narrative (Sarah Palin is dunce, a stupid hillbilly) and ended up becoming the joke with his bizarre antics.

Crazy Jane said...

McGinniss made a career of insinuating himself into people's lives and then turning on them in print.

His 1980 book on Alaska, "Going to Extremes", had Alaskans fuming for years afterward.

Janet Malcolm exposed the McGinniss method in an excellent, thoughtful book; neither of those terms has credibly been associated with anything McGinniss wrote.

The Palins saw what was coming and rightly called foul.

Fred Drinkwater said...

The writer never heard this Epictetus aphorism:
Do not write so that you can be understood, write so that you cannot be misunderstood.

President-Mom-Jeans said...

Good fucking riddance. Hope you are hungry, worms.

Jeff Dorsai said...

one less for the clean up crew ... yet another day made better by the passing of yet another sh*thead leftist moron ...

chickenlittle said...

Althouse wrote Too bad to put in a life's work and have something creepy that you did be the #1 thing many or most people attach to your name when they see that you died.

Indeed. And hopefully, one day, Andrew Sullivan will receive such an epitaph. Sullivan celebrated McGuinnis' role in Palin Wars today.