February 24, 2017

It was horrible of that CNN editor to say it's the role of journalists to "aid the afflicted and afflict the comfortable."

Good thing James O'Keefe smoked out that horror (spoken by Richard T. Griffiths, vice president and editorial director at CNN, when he thought he was off microphone).

It was horrible of Griffiths to mangle the great old aphorism, which is usually phrased "The job of the newspaper is to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable" and which was originally written — in the kind of dialect people don't find too amusing anymore — in the 1902 book "Observations by Mr. Dooley":
“Th' newspaper does ivrything f'r us. It runs th' polis foorce an' th' banks, commands th' milishy, controls th' ligislachure, baptizes th' young, marries th' foolish, comforts th' afflicted, afflicts th' comfortable, buries th' dead an' roasts thim aftherward.”
(Mr. Dooley, an Irish bartender, is the fictional creation of the newspaper humorist Finley Peter Dunne.)

How can Griffiths be a media editor and so lacking of an ear for language? What makes the saying great is the flipping of the 2 words, comfort and afflict.  In the first phrase, comfort is the verb and the noun is formed out of the word afflict. In the second phrase, afflict is the verb and the noun is formed out of the word comfort. That's some beautiful humor, full of meaning and poetry.

Then along comes this lummox Griffiths and he botches the first word, instead of beginning with comfort — the word upon which you're then supposed to cleverly end (in its variation comfortable) — he begins with aid, which never appears again in his clunky non-aphorism.

It's like saying: It's not the size of the dog in the fight, it's the amount of the fight in the dog.

71 comments:

David said...

Mr. Dooley also said "Politics ain't beanbag." That's for sure.

Mark O said...

The bar to be a "journalist" is low. Low.

The Godfather said...

You're durned right Althouse! Mr. Dooley himself couldn't have said it better.

Kate said...

If you're saying that the worst thing about this is a news director with no sense of the music of a phrase . . . then I agree. Go sell stocks, buddy. This should permanently disqualify you from ever working near wordsmiths.

Nonapod said...

Taking an old humorous aphorism, mangling it, and then regurgitating it as some sort of serious mission statement is a little odd. Makes you wonder how he might reinterpret Jonathan Swift's "A Modest Proposal".

John said...

I just finished reading Advise and Consent based on someone's recommendation here. Great book, gonna start the next in the series when I finish reading The Undoing Project and Dereliction of Duty.

It was written in 1957. The plot revolves around the president trying to appoint a SoS who was a communist earlier and then lied about it under oath to the Senate.

Reporters are sort of a Greek chorus throughout. At one point they are talking about how they (the press) can help get the president drag the SoS over the finish line.

In a later scene, the "director" of the WaPo is talking to the Senate Majority Leader. The Post had previously had a front page story about how the SoS had mail running 10-1 in favor of confirmation. The Senator tells the director that now, after some other events, the mail is running 10-1 against. He asks the WaPo is they will print that. Sure, the director says. On page 34.

Drury worked on Capital Hill and know what he was talking about. They press have been fucking us since forever. Now we have a workaround. Even better, we have someone who is willing to work around.

John Henry

Michael K said...

I just finished reading Advise and Consent based on someone's recommendation here.

Read his "A Senate Journal." and you will see how it was the basis of the novel. It's non-fiction and excellent.

Michael K said...

It's also useful to know that Drury was gay and that is his theme about the Senator who was the tragic character.

robother said...

CNN, often at a loss for words. My favorite example is the expression on the airline crash forensic expert when asked by Don Lemon about the possibility that the Malasian Air flight had dropped into the Bermuda Triangle.

Jess said...

The press is exposed, will eventually realize they're not welcome as before, and will receive the disrespect they earned. Maybe they'll find some humility, and integrity, while they sort through the mess they created.

rehajm said...

For lefties, comfort as an activity is too defensive and reactionary. Aid is a leftie advocacy verb. As a bonus it satisfies the leftie user with a much needed dopamine squirt.

mockturtle said...

Yes, let's dissect the trees. Never mind the forest.

It's all about power. The press wants it even more than do politicians. Reporting news is tangential stuff delegated to the junior varsity team. Bringing down leaders, now that's the stuff that quickens the heart of a real journalist.

Bay Area Guy said...

O'Keefe is a trip. His first video -- where he dressed up as a white pimp -- was hysterical. But even that one didn't end well, as he had to pay a $100,000 settlement for violating the privacy rights of the video-taped.

Here, unless something else breaks, this looks like a "swing and a miss".

Limited blogger said...

Most people, like me, just assume O'Keefe bagged his trophy. Have not watched any of it.

gerry said...

For lefties, comfort as an activity is too defensive and reactionary. Aid is a leftie advocacy verb. As a bonus it satisfies the leftie user with a much needed dopamine squirt.

Perfect. I especially like the masturbatory phrase "much needed dopamine squirt".

Mark said...

It is surprising that a media member would mangle it since the aphorism employs a well-known rhetorical device. Not unlike "ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country." It's called chiasmus. Thank you to my college rhetoric teacher for me knowing that. The best public speakers use these devices all the time, one would think a journalist at CNN would know it.

Sebastian said...

@Mark and AA: "one would think a journalist at CNN would know it." One would think one wouldn't think a so-called journalist at CNN would know it. What, exactly, would one think a "journalist" would know?

Angel-Dyne said...

AA: How can Griffiths be an media editor and so lacking of an ear for language?

The day there was such a thing as a "media editor" was the day that question became quaint.

Nonapod: Taking an old humorous aphorism, mangling it, and then regurgitating it as some sort of serious mission statement is a little odd.

That's the sort of thing literal-minded people do. I have a (vague and undeveloped) theory that we live in an unusually literal-minded age. There seems to be an awful lot of people who just don't "get" natural language. Perhaps that perception is just an artifact of spending too much time online, where dwells a disproportionate number of spergs, but sometimes I really do wonder...

Bob Boyd said...

You know who comforts th' afflicted, afflicts th' comfortable in America these days?
I'll give you 3 guesses and the first 2 don't count. Hint: It ain't CNN.

khesanh0802 said...

Ann; You are mistakenly expecting intelligence and ease with the English language from today's "newspaper" people regardless of the medium. Disbanding schools of Journalism might be a great way to begin the process of improvement.

Sam L. said...

Forget it, Jake; it's CNNland.

Roughcoat said...

Dooley's fictional pub stood on Archer Avenue on Chicago's South Side. I live nearby and drive to work on Archer. The west end of Archer is still very Irish and Polish. Lots of cops and firemen and city workers live in the adjoining neighborhood. It's where you still find great old pubs like Mr. Dooley's establishment where the boyos at the bar speak in Mayo accents and wear flat caps. These aren't the fancy Irish pubs you find downtown but the real deal, dark and smelling of stale beer, like a village pub in ... Mayo. They're the sort of pub (and clientale) where, when you enter everyone stops talking and turns to look at you. The neighborhood stays Irish and Polish until you get past St. Camillus' on 55th and Cicero Ave (Midway Airport) where it turns Mexican and stays that way until you get to Bridgeport/Canaryville (home of the Daley clan) near the lake which is still heavily working-class Irish. These neighborhoods are as close to being the "old Chicago" as you're likely to find in the city. Many of the Irish families in Bridgeport/Canaryville have owned their houses for generations, since their great and great-great grandparents immigrated from Erin. They pass them down through the family and if they have to sell them, they'll only sell to another Irish (or Italian, or Lithuanian) family from the neighborhood.

Wilbur said...

While relevatory to a degree, this would rank low on the list of my complaints concerning CNN.

Chuck said...

Not sure if serious.

I am going to go with, "Althouse is in a Friday mood, and has tongue firmly planted in cheek."

Yes; as usual, Althouse divines the essence of the language question. (The old saying was indeed botched, by one misplaced word.) But cumong man; this new O'Keefe video -- I watched all of it -- was a one-half pound nothingburger, with extra cheese.

I'd be perfectly happy to see any one of a dozen CNN closet-progressives taken down a notch. The latest Veritas video didn't do it.

Clyde said...

I saw the botched quote and thought the exact same thing. Sad!

Michael K said...

They pass them down through the family and if they have to sell them, they'll only sell to another Irish (or Italian, or Lithuanian) family from the neighborhood.

That used to be the case in South Shore, where I grew up. They are so fortunate to have held out.

I can remember riding a street car through that area on Halsted Street and, on Saturday night, the street car would pull up the boarding steps and run for a mile through the area to avoid rowdy drunks.

Yancey Ward said...

The problem with the aphorism as used today is that there is no connection to whether or not truth is served. You can comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable with lies more easily than you can with the truth. Truth is a hard taskmaster.

Roughcoat said...

Michael K:

I remember your neighborhood well ... back in the day I dated a beautiful saftig Polish girl who lived there and went to South Shore HS. Imagine me, a North Side Irish -German kid, driving all the way down to South Shore and going out with a girl from that neighborhood. What a culture clash. We were so incredibly different. She had a thick South Side accent which I found very strange, and exotic. Man, she was gorgeous, and also "fast", a city girl, not repressed and stuck up like the lace curtain Catholic and Wasp girls from my neighborhood. Lots of fun! Worth the drive!

I also remember how South Shore "turned" almost overnight ... well not quite that fast, but within the span of about a year, as I recall ... due to blockbusting methods that were subsequently made illegal.

I came along a little after you, but there were still plenty of rowdy drunks on weekend nights in Bridgeport/Canaryville ... I was one of them, on more than occasion. Things still get exciting at Kelly's on Wallace, where I hung out now and again until the late 90s-early 2000s, when I finally wised up and quit drinking.

Ann Althouse said...

"Yes; as usual, Althouse divines the essence of the language question. (The old saying was indeed botched, by one misplaced word.) But cumong man; this new O'Keefe video -- I watched all of it -- was a one-half pound nothingburger, with extra cheese."

If you think I saw only a less important aspect of the story, you must not have seen the post I put up yesterday on the O'Keefe story.

You kind of owe me an apology for that "as usual" snark.

buwaya said...

"I have a (vague and undeveloped) theory that we live in an unusually literal-minded age. There seems to be an awful lot of people who just don't "get" natural language. "

My theory is that these days few people, even people who make a living with language, have read much real literature. They don't get much creative or complex speech in real life either, and get even less practice. All of these are dying art forms.

I blame the schools, a lot. They have defined their only purpose as raising up the bottom quartile to a minimum, very low, standard. They don't dare teach Dickens.

Lewis Wetzel said...

Why is it especially the job of the journalist to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable? There is nothing special about writing for publication these days.
Everyone should be free to "comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable."
And you may use any criteria you choose to determine whom is the afflicted and whom is the comfortable. Use your imagination!

Roughcoat said...

buwaya -

I hated Dickens, and Henry James too, but I'm glad I had to read them.

I'm just a glad I'll never have to read them again.

Unknown said...

So a bit off topic. I've been wondering, lately, exactly what good is there in the Democrat party. My church says that principles compatible with the gospel of Jesus can be found in both parties, but I've got to wonder where, in the Democrats.

Because from where I stand, there's nothing good about them. They stand for forced immorality ("Girls, you must shower with this sexual predator who claims he's a girl!"), abortion, forcing Christians to service gays, etc. They openly celebrate lying to the public (Obama's "If you like your doctor, you can keep your doctor"). They explicitly agitate against the 1st amendment: You do not have the right to speak in public if you have the "wrong views" (ask Milo or many others). They attack Trump rallies with violence, and demand that you cannot exclude them (recall the Christian student group some university said had to have a full atheist leftist as its leader). Freedom of religion is fully under assault. You don't have the right to defend yourself; to have an attorney if you are male and accused by some girl of something, nor a right to a jury.

More broadly, while no doubt the leftists would claim "We want to help people in poverty unlike evil Republicans" their help consists of enslaving people to the dole and rewarding their bad behavior. The left openly coddles criminals and actively tries to hurt honest, hard work.

Even further: the left essentially denies humans as anything more than another monkey; and encourages us to indulge in our basest instincts and reject reasoning and self control, abdicating all decisions to them. In short, they want us to be their slaves.

So I ask again, where is the good in the Democrat party as constituted today? Perhaps I should say the new progressives. I cannot see any. So maybe someone here can find it.

--Vance

Abdul Abulbul Amir said...

That that phrase means is that jurnos should take sides. Humans will always see their side as afflicted. The phrase is a weasel excuse for rank partisanship.

buwaya said...

"I hated Dickens, and Henry James too"

I love Dickens. He was always on this long, constant joke, a smile, at least, on every page.

Henry James you can do with as you will.

Michael K said...

went to South Shore HS.

My cousin, Jean Mileham went to South Shore about 1940 or so and her class mate was Mel Torme the singer.

She went there because my uncle, who had adopted her when she was orphaned, worried that Catholic school would turn the children against him as he was Anglican. The rest of us went to Catholic school. One of the Daley boys went to school with me at St Leo HS.

South Shore did not turn "in a year" but it went pretty fast, My father sold our house, which I would not mind having today in another city, to a white university professor who no doubt had left wing hopes for rainbows and unicorns. That was about 1967. A few years ago, I met the present owner, a nice black accountant, who asked me if I would send him photos of the house when I lived there. He insisted on giving me a tour when he saw me taking a photo of the house.

I felt so sorry for him. He would love to have the life we had there in the 1940s.

Robert Cook said...

"Why is it especially the job of the journalist to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable?"

Who else but the paid journalist will go out and do the drudge work of uncovering the facts normally hidden from public view as to the various and sundry crimes committed by the comfortable to achieve and maintain their comfort, (afflicting and often impoverishing others in the doing)? It is the light shone on these crimes of the powerful that presumably will bring about their shaming, (a quaint concept today, where no one feels shame at any offense), as well as political or legal "affliction" to them.

mockturtle said...

I love Dickens, too, Buywaya. Dickens' characters were realistic and memorable. And yes, wonderful humor. Not like that of Swift, of course [whom I practically worship] but a keen satirical wit.

mockturtle said...

Cookie, were you molested by an oligarch as a child?

The Godfather said...

Aside from the "aid" instead of "comfort" screw-up, if you read Mr. Dooley in context he means just the opposite of what the CNN guy says. The newspaper, Dooley says, claims to do "everything for us" that it doesn't actually do: the newspaper doesn't run the police force and the banks, it doesn't command the militia, or control the legislature, much less baptize the young and marry the foolish. The newspaper, in its arrogance, pretends to powers and authority that it doesn't have and isn't entitled to have. Comforting the afflicted and afflicting the comfortable likewise is not the newspaper's business, but the newspaper pretends to that role to elevate its own importance.

The job of the news media is to report the news fairly regardless of who that news may comfort and who it may afflict.

Robert Cook said...

"Cookie, were you molested by an oligarch as a child?"

No, mockturtle, I remained quite innocent of the ways of the world throughout my childhood and into my young adulthood.

mockturtle said...

Thanks, Godfather, for the accurate analysis.

mockturtle said...

Cookie, bless your heart. I see you as still innocent of the ways of the world.

MisterBuddwing said...

I'm reminded of a certain Vice President of the United States, who, when he was addressing the United Negro College Fund, echoed the organization's slogan, "A mind is a terrible thing to waste," by saying, "What a waste it is to lose one's mind. Or not to have a mind is being very wasteful. How true that is."

Chuck said...

Althouse, you mistook my post entirely. It was genuine. Not "snark." You do, routinely, divine the essence of language issues. You are one of the best critics of poplar language usage I know of. And one of my personal favorites. Either I was uncharacteristically unclear in my meaning, or you were uncharacteristically uncomprehending of that meaning.

I saw your first post when the O'Keefe video when it appeared, and then your addendum after you reviewed it. My feelings about the video, even before your addendum, were the same as yours.

?

Robert Cook said...

"The job of the news media is to report the news fairly regardless of who that news may comfort and who it may afflict."

Yes, of course, but what is "fairly?" This often depends on whose ox is being gored. Simply acting as stenographers, writing one party says and then what other parties say in response is not reporting. Reporting involves investigating and uncovering the facts such as can be discovered, and then pointing out where the facts are at variance with claims made.

The job of the press is to get at the facts and to report the truth told by these facts, fearlessly, regardless of who may be displeased by such publication of the facts.

Unknown said...

The Press is the enemy of the people and we are going to do something about it! Presidential words that will no doubt go down in history.

William said...

Some people's comfort is the result of years of hard work. Some people are mostly afflicted by their own vices. If a journalist can't spot the difference, he has missed the story......Still, it's a fine old cliche and saves one the bother of observing uncomfortable facts. The end of religion is certainty not truth. This cliche enhances the speakers own sanctity and not his powers of observation.

buwaya said...

"Reporting involves investigating and uncovering the facts such as can be discovered, and then pointing out where the facts are at variance with claims made. "

Reporting also involves selecting what to "investigate and uncover".
This and not that, this man and not those others.
Which is the starting point of bias.

buwaya said...

"The Press is the enemy of the people"

In the US today, yes indeed. They are owned and operated by entities with interests opposed to those of the mass of the people. This in itself would not matter, except that, as Cook notes above, the essence of the value of the press is to investigate. Investigation is work, it takes manpower and expense. Its expensive.

So the Press investigates and covers, selectively, those matters which, once covered, tend to serve the interests of their masters and oppose the interests of the people.

This cannot be substituted by amateurs except on occasion.

readering said...

Jump to Drury's last novel in the series. He goes bonkers about the future of the US.

Wilbur said...

Of course the press is the enemy of the people and of the truth, and have been for well over 50 years. Their ideological leanings trump every other card in their hand.

That many, many well-educated people in this country firmly believe this comes as a surprise only to those wearing their own ideological blinders.

Michael said...

The legacy of Nixon was the creation of a press suddenly and permanently devoted to "investigative" journalism; ie the uncovering of evil by Republican office holders. Every beat of every paper from then til now has been on this job whether it is the business beat or the bond beat or the traffic beat. Or the weather.

Roughcoat said...

The Godfather @1:16:

You are quite correct re what Dooley was really getting at. Dunne was a satirist, an occupation that comes naturally to the Irish, to the extent it may well be coded in their DNA. They love to screw with you using language and humor, amiable misdirection with a sting, making you laugh while sticking a shiv in your back. With his aphorism about afflicting the comfortable he's actually sticking a shiv in the back of newspapers and the journalistic profession. Most journalists who recite it don't know this, they think Dooley was praising newspapers, because they have in modern times become humorless arrogant moralizing twits and because they never had the great good fortune to encounter the works of Finley Peter Dunne.

rcocean said...

"So the Press investigates and covers, selectively, those matters which, once covered, tend to serve the interests of their masters and oppose the interests of the people."

Exactly. The problem with the press - and its real power - isn't in what it reports, but what it doesn't report. What "they" decide is news. So, if congressman x has an affair or indulges in shady deal Y, that's not news because the press likes him. But if Congressman A does the the same bad things, it IS NEWS.

The other problem with MSM is they all think and act alike, like birds on a wire. The NYT or WaPo bird flies off, and they all fly off. The WSJ or AP bird flies back down and they all fly back down. Except sometimes the Fox bird does the opposite or goes and sits in a tree.

Unknown said...

What a nilhilistic, dark world you people reside in, a regular American "carnage". All because a black man won the Presidency in 2008. You still are acting on that outrage, you hoisted a Trump on the rest of us because of your xenophobia, homophobia, racism, sexism, islamophobia, and a desire to burn it all down. You've turned America into your wasteland in more ways than can be expressed.

buwaya said...

"The legacy of Nixon was the creation of a press suddenly and permanently devoted to "investigative" journalism"

This is, I think, incorrect. Journalists have been up to this forever and ever. The new bit about Nixon is that he was a target for this at all. The press knew about and ignored, or suppressed, far worse from the Roosevelt administration on. It was the sudden, and selective, removal of impunity from Nixon that was the innovation.

rcocean said...

"Drury worked on Capital Hill and know what he was talking about. They press have been fucking us since forever. Now we have a workaround. Even better, we have someone who is willing to work around."

Yeah Drury, was Gay and an interesting guy. He never forgave FDR for breaking the "Gentlemen's Code" that protected a politicians private life. "The Code" was that what a man did in his private life, drink, girls, boys, whatever, was kept out of the papers unless it effected his job.

FDR broke that "Code" in 1942, when the New York Post published an article that a Gay isolationist senator called Walsh had been caught at a Gay Bordello. FDR had the FBI investigate but dropped "hints" to various reporters/pols that Walsh was Gay. Walsh survived but Drury never forgot FDR's dirty tactics.

buwaya said...

"You've turned America into your wasteland in more ways than can be expressed."

Turn to the dark side young one. We have cookies. You can have mine, I need to stay away from that stuff.

rcocean said...

FDR was a typical liberal. He believed in "codes" "traditions" "principles" etc. EXCEPT when it got in the way of his achieving power or pushing some policy he wanted.

Oh course, when he violated free speech, the 3rd term rule, etc. well, that was DIFFERENT.

Lewis Wetzel said...

"Unknown" seems to be carrying an extra-big bucket o' crazy today.

Michael K said...

"your xenophobia, homophobia, racism, sexism, islamophobia, and a desire to burn it all down. "

You forgot my necrophobia. I don't like dead people. They smell bad.

Are you joining the big witch event at midnight, Inga ?

Michael K said...

"Jump to Drury's last novel in the series. He goes bonkers about the future of the US."

Yes, the writers often run out of ideas, or get old like WEB Griffin and Stephen Ambrose, both of whom tried to keep publishing with their sons writing.

Michael K said...

Simply acting as stenographers, writing one party says and then what other parties say in response is not reporting.

It worked OK back in the 1860s when both sides had their own newspapers and people read them.

Now, we have all newspapers taking one side of the argument. Even the Wall Street Journal has drifted left as the front page writers are all J school products and the business community got in to crony capitalism big time.

rcocean said...

I've noticed a very big decline in writing ability not only among journalists but among young people that I work with. Its not related to grammar or spelling - which can be checked by computer - but related to concise, logical, vivid, writing.

Probably the best example of this, is myself. 20 years ago I was regarded by my bosses as nothing more than an average writer of business reports. Now, I'm regarded as some sort of wizard of the English language by my co-workers. 30 years ago, I was shocked at how poorly written the NYT was compared to the London Times. Now, I'm shocked at how badly written the NYT and London Times are - period.

And its true of many other things. Go back and read the newspapers of the 1940s and then read those of today. Its an incredible decline.

rhhardin said...

It's called chiasmus.

rhhardin said...

All antimetaboles are chiasmus, not not all chiamuses are antimetaboles.

BN said...

"Then along comes this lummox Griffiths and he botches the first word..."

If I had a dollop for ever time I mispake, I'd have real bunch of mullah.

The Godfather said...

Roughcoat (3:04 pm) is quite right that "Dunne was a satirist, an occupation that comes naturally to the Irish, to the extent it may well be coded in their DNA. They love to screw with you using language and humor, amiable misdirection with a sting, making you laugh while sticking a shiv in your back." This comes, perhaps, from centuries of persecution of the Irish by the English. Perhaps the same can be said of the Jews, who have been persecuted for millenia by practically every nation on Earth.

Nyamujal said...

One expects things said in confidence not to end up on a blog like this, subject to public ridicule.
That said, the glee with which conservatives usually latch on to such e-mail or audio dumps is not really commensurate with the really banal, milquetoast shit these tapes actually reveal.

Todd said...

I know this is late to the thread and likely not to be seen but I could not let it stand unopposed...

Unknown said...

What a nilhilistic, dark world you people reside in, a regular American "carnage". All because you needed a black man to win the Presidency in 2008. You still are acting on that outrage, you hoisted on us and wanted to inflict another Clinton on the rest of us because of your xenophobia, homophobia, racism, sexism, islamophobia, and a desire to burn it all down. You've almost turned America into your wasteland in more ways than can be expressed.

2/24/17, 3:07 PM


Fortunately, Clinton failed and Trump won. Have all of those "elites" finished moving to Canada, Spain, and Jupiter yet?