Thursday, May 1, 2008

Personal Asides: Mark Brown, the Consummate White, Guilt-Ridden Liberal Journalist…Mary Mitchell, the Black Female Journalist with a Grievance..


Mark Brown.

Thanks to Jim Bowman, both Mark Brown and Mary Mitchell of the “Sun-Times” have been given a thorough scrutiny as result of their Jeremiah Wright comments. Bowman, himself a first-rate journalist and former religion editor of the old “Chicago Daily News” of happy memory, analyzes both of these half-formed emotional basket-cases on his blog “Blithe Spirit.” I’ll add my own psychoanalysis which is far more radical than his—and goes like this.

When he dies, Brown should be put into a glass container of formaldehyde and exhibited as the classic liberal who has substituted conventional relativist wisdom for absolutes. Show him a black liberal candidate and he wants…oh so passionately…to see him/her succeed because it will make him feel good, oh so comfy wrapped up in the cocoon of his own security. Liberaldom has become his central emotion since on all other major issues he is non-judgmental. Remember there are no such things as extremism in the black community. Blacks have suffered, oh how they have suffered, and are entitled to express any emotion in the marketplace of ideas. The only extremists are on the right. He reminds me of Lynn Sweet who is a far better reporter than he and who has a superbly sophisticated sense of politics unless Brown who labors to understand even ideas written with crayon.

People who read this frequently know how I value Lynn Sweet as a consummate political reporter. She is biased, yes, as the “Tribune’s” George Tagge was under the old Colonel—but her bias for liberalism has limits. You will remember that she has given the Democrats some very hard knocks. She is too good a news reporter, as Tagge was, not to live up to the standards of her profession.

All the same, Lynn is a liberal, albeit a much more thoughtful liberal than the visceral Brown. She and I were on a radio show a decade or so ago and she identified Jesse Helms rightly as an ultra-conservative (which he was in contrast to the run-of-the-mill conservatives of his time). I asked her: Lynn, you’re right. Now can you identify for me an ultra-liberal?

Long silence of dead air. She honestly couldn’t. Nor I am sure can Mark Brown. There are no such people. I said: Well, we’ll give you more time to think about it, Lynn. She said: no. Right now I can’t identify one.

When I saw her a few days later in Washington I went over to her and said: “Ramsey Clark.”

She said: “What?”

I said: “Ramsey Clark. Would you identify him as an ultra-liberal?”

She said she’d think about it. And she still is.

If she were here as I write this, I’d say: Billy Ayres. How does that strike you?

She’d probably have to think about that one as well. But that doesn’t bother me a bit because I love Lynn Sweet. She was a guest at a seminar in politics I taught at DePaul and if I ever teach again…which is doubtful…I am certainly going to ask her if she’d guest-lecture. I don’t know a contemporary journalist from this town who carries such an institutional memory of Illinois and now national politics as does she.

The difference between Lynn Sweet and Mark Brown is that Lynn couldn’t…probably still can’t…think of an ultra-liberal because she refuses to acquiesce to the premise, that her point of view would be ultra in any sense—but Mark probably denies any ultra liberal exists, not because he is duplicitous as Lynn would be, but because he’s really honest-to-god unaware that he or any who share his views deviate from the norm. Lynn is educable and brilliant. He is hopeless.

Mary Mitchell.

Mary Mitchell of the “Sun-Times” is God’s angry black woman. Mark Brown is not angry; he’s gelatinously malleable, guileless, innocent: liberalism is his church. It has assumed all the prerogatives of church and religiosity for him. . Mary doesn’t care much about liberalism, not even politics or ideology; she is race-centered. She is an angry black oracle. And she is not poor but middle-class with a great many advantages, far-far more than the average person. She has a newspaper column which puts her views front and center for hundreds of thousands of readers in a major metropolitan area. She has talent; far more than Brown who is a plodding slug.

Because for many years white liberals have spoiled her by insisting her views take predominance over many others since…you know…she’s black, she has assumed an attitude of benign (almost) belligerence. There she stands in the photo adjoining her column, hands on hips: no nonsense. Once I thought she and a few other columnists were being used by Michael Cooke for marketing purposes. That’s because the paper’s columnists represent commercial types: Richard Roeper is the hip, young single guy (well, not so young anymore) with views that are predictably liberal and not thought out…Neil Steinberg is the hip young Jewish professional, hair slicked down and a brash Brooklyn-style wise guy…Stella Foster is the average black menial type, giddy, blissfully ecstatic and unaware that she’s dumb, unaware that she is so-so-so what is the word, stereotypical of a celebrity-obsessed shop girl, somebody at a McDonald’s—whom I think Cooke intends her to represent. Then there is Mary: black, angry, smart, a queen bee, prima donna type, not taking guff from men, either.

Now that I rethink it, they are all being used by schlock Michael Cooke for marketing purposes. He’s the problem with the “Sun-Times.” I have the feeling everybody’s acting up for his benefit: Mary being God’s angry black woman, Steinberg the cynical sophisticate, Roeper the hip, Stella the klutz. All playing a role. I wonder what would have happened if the paper had stayed the way the old “Sun-Times” people ran it: Pete Akers, Emmett Dedmon, a format that was sober but lively. The slam-bang version of the National Enquirer-imitation is Cooke’s decadent gift…anything to keep the readership. But I wonder if they had to cheapen it to get the readers. Suppose they classed it up and returned it to the days of Akers and Dedmon.

Would the paper would have as many readers as it has today…if they hadn’t cheapened up it, put rouge on its cheeks and sent it out like a mini-skirted tart to stand by the lamplight? Sexist talk. Oh well, I bet it might have more readers. What do you think?

My kind of journalistic liberal is Mike Miner. He used to work there but is at “The Reader” now. I owe him lunch for some nice things he wrote a long time ago but he won’t let me pay. So we’ll go dutch and he wants to go to non-corporate place. So one of these days I’ll call him and suggest we go dutch to Manny’s. I wish he were running the “Sun-Times.”


  1. The recent columns by Mark Brown and Mary Mitchell should be subject for discussions in journalism school classes for years to come. These are exemplars of poorly constructed advocacy journalism at its very worst.
    Mitchell seems to be out of her mind most of the time. Her columns are filled with anger.

    Having seen Neil Steinberg in a public place, I can tell you that is column photograph must date back to his high school graduation. He's balding, greying and overweight, but not in his newspaper mug shot.

  2. Catholic Eye quotes some guy named Roeser on Pfleger et al. A nice plug also for