EDITOR’S NOTE: This piece appears in the February 14, 2005, issue of National Review.
TO: All news staff worldwide
RE: Guidelines for the next four years
As I hope was clear from my conference call this morning, many of us here on the eleventh floor are concerned with what seems to us to be an undue amount of attention and navel-gazing on the part of the journalistic community as it digests and responds to the next Bush administration.
Obviously, the CBS affair has had ramifications. We can no longer simply trust our sources to provide us with documents that will not stand expert scrutiny. I am particularly proud of this news organization’s response to the CBS imbroglio, and if any questions remain, please refer to my memo of 11/17/04, “Avoiding Sloppy Work: A Guide for Teaching Your Sources about Fonts, Kerning, and the Autopen.”
And yet, I can sense from some of your work that there’s a backsliding mentality going on. It’s understandable, of course, that the tragic events of the recent past–the Rice hearings, the Bush inaugural, the recent rise in consumer confidence, the tsunami–may have knocked some of you off balance. This memo is an attempt to get things back on track.
For the duration of the next four years, then, let’s all try to observe the following guidelines:
1. When possible, please refer to Jesus Christ, the historical figure associated with those who profess belief in “Christian” doctrine, as either “Mr. Christ” or “the Jesus figure.” Let’s remember that we’re journalists. We’re supposed to be skeptical. For further discussion of this stylebook change, please see my memo of 12/25/04, “Injecting Pluralism: A New Way to Talk About Jesus and Jesuses.”
2. The terms “far Right” and “radical Right” no longer serve a useful descriptive purpose. Please substitute “arch” or “spooky” as appropriate.
3. The elections in Iraq pose special problems for us, as recent indications suggest that they may proceed with relative efficiency and even, among some of the more “backward” citizens, outright enthusiasm. It’s especially challenging, when depicting or describing cheerful Iraqis on their way to vote for the first time in their lives in a free and fair election, not to forget–as I just did, a few words ago–that elections are never free and fair. They are, for our purposes, “free” and “fair,” perhaps–the quotation marks here are really crucial, and are required for any and all dispatches–but better, more accurate words to use to characterize the upcoming “free” and “fair” “elections” in Iraq might be any combination of the following: fraught, tense, deep, riven, terror, hate, ambivalent, anger, anti-Bush, anti-American, violent, tragic, depressed, and quagmire. Please see that in your dispatches and copy you incorporate this new lexicon….
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