March 18, 2006
Let's Help Ryan Blethen
After I read
Stefan's post on the most recent
Ryan Blethen column,
I went to the column to read it myself. Or, I should say, to try to read it. But
I could barely get through the first sentence, and was unable to get beyond the first paragraph, at
least on my first try.
As I read the column, I saw so many problems with the writing that I stopped reading it for substance,
and began trying to correct it. Correcting the first paragraph was hard enough work so that I
didn't want to read what followed. I remembered that I was not being paid for this
work, and so I stopped. But later yesterday, I thought about it a little more and realized I was
not being charitable. Coming, as he does, from an impoverished family, it is not surprising that
Blethen needs some help with his composition, and so I will provide some here. (And if he and
his family, impoverished as they are, want to arrange tutoring for him, they should contact me and I will
see if we can work something out.)
Here's the first paragraph for those who haven't seen it:
The tethers of our democracy are visibly frayed. Eroding forces abound from the falsehoods used
to justify war in Iraq and government spying on Americans, to voters so rabid they cannot hear divergent
opinion, or worse, are woefully detached. The press has become so beholden to profit it struggles
to play the watchdog role needed for democracy to flourish.
If you aren't sure about the meaning of a word, you should look it up. After I read that first
sentence, I was no longer sure that I knew what "tether" meant, so I looked it up in my American Heritage
A rope or chain for holding an animal in place, allowing it a short radius in which to move
Visualize a goat tied to a tree, and you've got it. (Except that Blethen,
unlike most farmers, uses more than one tether for his goat.) The dictionary also gives a metaphorical
meaning, derived from the first meaning.
So, Blethen sees our democracy as a goat tied to a tree, and fears that the ropes that keep the goat
tied are fraying. If they break, the goat (our democracy) will gain its freedom, which is, unless
I completely misunderstand Blethen, a bad thing. I like to think I know a little bit about
democratic theory, but I am unable to understand why a democracy gaining its freedom is a bad thing, or to divine what the ropes are in his metaphor.
Perhaps Blethen, who does not strike me as a farm boy, intended the metaphorical
meaning of tether. If so, he should have begun something like this: "Our democracy is at
the end of its tether." But that doesn't work very well either, because a goat at the end of
its tether has most likely eaten all that it can, and the tether breaking may save the goat from
The second sentence was even worse than the first. I read the first
three words, "Eroding forces abound", and stopped. That's both pompous and vague; it would be
much better to begin the sentence like this: "The tethers are being eroded by". The from-to pair
that follows is confusing. Ordinarily that pair is used for journeys, or for metaphorical
journeys from one part of a range to another. For example, we might say that Blethen travels from
Medina to Seattle on his daily commute, or that he moved from being a paper boy to being an editorial
writer. In either example, we can see what's in between. But what is in between falsehoods
and government spying on the one hand, and rabid voters on the other? Again, I am
There is a much more serious problem with that from-to phrase. Blethen accuses the administration,
indirectly, of telling falsehoods. That is such a powerful charge that it should not be made
without providing specifics, and evidence supporting those specifics. And the same is true of Blethen's
rabid voters. He is smearing some voters, though we aren't quite sure which voters, and he provides
no evidence at all for the smear. (Some of you will have also noticed that rabid is an inappropriate
metaphor for those who do not listen, for reasons I hope are obvious.)
The last sentence in the paragraph is not as bad as the first two. But it does mix metaphors;
if Blethen wants to call the press a watchdog, then he should say that it protects democracy, not that it
is needed so democracy can "flourish".
That's not all that's wrong with the first paragraph, but that's about as much help as I am willing to
give Blethen — at least without being paid. But I know that many of you are also
charitable. And if you feel like giving help to someone who greatly needs it, take a sentence from
the column, or even a full paragraph, and correct it in the same way I corrected the first paragraph.
I am sure that both Blethen and the Seattle Times will be grateful for our help.
(Oh, and if anyone can figure out what those tethers are, please let us know.)
Posted by Jim Miller at March 18, 2006
10:56 AM | Email This
One should not expect grammar, facts or education to be anywhere honored by an MSM newspaper. Those are urban myths.
The purpose of MSM is currently to entertain and to propagandize the beliefs of key employees, while capturing as much advertising revenue as possible.
How many times has the "old grey lady" of newspapers been found to have "made-up" stories? How many times have we seen the politically correct articles on the first page above the fold, and the articles that truly and accurately convey what is really happening never make it to the printed page?
Your problem is you have standards and you expect that the MSM will live up to those standards.
2. Poor Baby Blethen.
The only callouses Ryan Blethen has are on his brain and his a$$!!
Using Daddy's money so he has a bully-pulpit to spew ramblings about the "unfairmess of it all"!
What a dink!
Most trust-funders like Lil Ryan must be excused for their lack of REAL world understanding. Reading about the REAL WORLD and writing about it from underneath your new BIG, SHINEY DESK results in lackluster thoughtlings like Jim pointed out.
So Ryan, how about getting a REAL job in the REAL world. Living a privileged life with no REAL world experience results in your shallowness.
Ryan Blethens will ultimately sink the family legacy.
This writing is almost as if he took Daddy's Dictionary and started glueing big words together.
Ryan Blethens is the Dr. Frankenstein of Journalism!! What a puke!
Let's see. Here's a fine sonorous sentence from the junior Blethen:
"Luckily, not everybody is sedated by the constant numbing glow of American culture."
How one gets sedated by a glow I can't explain, unless it's in possession of your personal hypnotist, or it's the glow on the tip of your joint.
Maybe he's thinking of the glow of the lighting on the face of liberal pundits on the tube - that's certainly numbing, and those are about the only sort seen there. But constant? Even Dan Rather didn't get that much face time on the tube.
If he's referring to the droning party line issuing from the MSM as a metaphor for American culture, I can agree that not everybody is sedated by it. Some of us actually get pretty exercised at it, waiting for some real reporting.
But it appears that he's trying to convey more than an elitist's sneer at American culture. He's building up to an organizing pitch for 'youth', and hopes to mobilize them politically, saying "The rot of democracy is well advanced" (I cheated, and read more than one sentence). In France, the guys who burn cars at night are called 'youth' in the news - is that the glow he mentions? But he expresses a positive attitude towards blogs, and therein is a strong sign of confusion.
Some of us rather enjoy blogs, as being the antithesis of the information monopoly held for decades by media such as the Seattle Times. Is he just rebelling against Dad? That's certainly part of American culture, but at his age I'd advise choosing a different adjective for his revolution than 'numbing'.
What bugs me about these "take democracy back!" folks is their blindness to the idea that the very notion to do so is undemocratic.
Take, for example, the following bits from Blethen's column. Once you struggle past that clumsy, awkward opening, the essay begins to become a bit more clear--
"[Lagos'] goal for the class was not to instill a particular political belief in the students, but to make sure they are empowered to make choices in our democracy."
If you know how to crack the code, you can see what is REALLY being said here. It may be that Lagos is not trying to instill a particular political belief in students, but using terms such as "empower" to help students "make choices" makes it clear--Lagos feels that students are helpless (because of...of...what? The vast right-wing conspiracy? their lousy ideological high-school educations?). He will then do something to empower them to make choices (which means, of course, the RIGHT choice, which is most likely a LEFT choice.)
"Lagos knows well what happens when choice and voice are taken away by government. His family fled Greece in 1967 after a military junta."
The idea here, of course, seems to be that the current US government is doing that right now. No, no political agenda there at all...
"Lagos says democracy is at a "crossroads." It can either wither or adapt to a modern world filled with more choices than ever before."
But only, of course, if you make the CORRECT choice. Otherwise, the wide variety of choices opens up a whole new set of bad choices too, right?
" 'We are so comfortable with what we have it just seems that democracy is too much of a bother," Lagos said. 'The question is what kind of choices are we going to make.' "
So, what is being said here is that some choices are better than others, right? What if--no, hear me out--"liberal" or "progressive" choices really are the worst choice?
"The message was not lost on his students. Linda Tomko entered the class pessimistic about democracy, but left with a new democratic energy. The soft-spoken Tomko said the problem with politics is that issues important to her generation, such as gay marriage and education, are defined by sound bites. 'If you can make the issues more relevant to younger voters, they will get involved,' Tomko said."
Ah, another two lovely lefty touch-points. Why not talk about other issues important to her generation, such as national security or the reduction of taxes to help businesses? Why only mention these two issues?
I could go on, but I don't see much point, since it's all more of the same.
6. Thanks Jim. I think the editors of the paper liked the idea of Blethen embarassing himself so they let the column run as is.
7. Why he's just about the cutest lil Nep that Nepotism has ever gone and done made, tethered or untethered.
I have many problems with not just individual paragraphs, but with the concept of the whole piece.
"Luckily, not everybody is sedated by the constant numbing glow of American culture."
I am an American. American culture does not sedate. Just because we don't have fancy French wine, Monarchs, the Mona Lisa, or other really old cultural traditions doesn't mean that we are numb. We simply have different culture, such as:
A melting pot (where muslim groups don't riot like in France)
Sports, Hollywood, Thousands of religions, etc. I am not numb because I am not European, or because our country is only a few hundred years old. I think it is plenty exciting to see a relatively young country (ours) still blooming.
"to voters so rabid they cannot hear divergent opinion, or worse, are woefully detached."
I may be rabid, I can hear divergent opinions, but usually they are wrong if they disagree with mine. This is because I believe that my opinions are right, just like anyone else would think that their opinions are right.
The reason that people feel woefully detached is a few things:
1. People feel their vote doesn't count (Governors election, case and point)
2. People feel the government will do whatever they want regardless of what opinion is (Monorail, gas tax, Insane federal and state government spending)
3. Most of politics is liberals sniping at conservatives, or vice versa. If politicians would say: "I disagree with your position on X because..." Rather than someone like Debbie Stabenow saying that the president is "dangerously incompetent" a lot more people would be able to hear issues rather then name calling. I think that both sides engage in this, but the liberals do it a lot more. The democrats, during the elections in 04 didn't have a single talking point that didn't mention Bush.
"democracy is at a "crossroads." It can either wither or adapt to a modern world filled with more choices than ever before."
I think that democracy is not at a crossroads. It is adapting, especially with new forms of the press (blogs, talk radio, drudgereport, etc)
As people get information from more sources, they are making better decisions. Just like people should be wary of their government, they should be wary of their press if they only have one source.
Also, as long as the government fears its citizens, there will be liberty. Why do you think so many liberals want our guns?
"The report goes deeper than the expected generational divide. It states that this age group in the Seattle area is eager to be a part of the political discussion, but feels that the system is corrupt and lacks transparency."
It is interesting that students in Seattle feel that the government (I am assuming they mean the feds) are corrupt and lack transparency. I wonder if they feel the same about local politics
1. Stefan can't get complete voter records
2. Teachers unions contribute to democrats, which mandate that all teachers pay the unions, which allows more money to be funneled to democrats
3. Monorail project: Landowners who had land confiscated, then don't get right of first refusal
4. 5 DUI's before felony, but lie once on a resume with same penalty
5. Chris Gregoire: "No new taxes" - said in campaign... I think you know where I am going
6. Landowners in King County can only use 10% of their land
"The task of stabilizing and creating a new democracy will fall to the waves of fluid voters and future leaders behind the baby boomers."
What is this "new democracy"? I like to think that I live in the most free country on earth. Although I would like to see more libertarian candidates elected, that only happens if a majority of people think like I do.
One positive thing about our democracy that must be noted is that things happen relatively slowly. This is good because it is relatively stable, and our government will generally not be subject to a vacuum created by dying baby boomers.
When is the last time there was a coup d Etat in this country? If you really want to see some instability, go to Afghanistan, or the Sudan, or some other country that is governed by whoever has the most guns currently. If a group of people disagrees with the current government in this country, there are no wars, they just get George Soros to bankroll a few 527s to try to change the president.
I like to think that I am smart enough to not have my entire set of values and beliefs changed by some candidate because I am a "fluid voter" I have a set of values that is based on my core, and they won't change much. I will continue to vote for who represents me, and the type of people that represent me don't change much because I have well thought out reasons for believing what I do.
Blethen wants to create a new democracy. My questions:
What is it?
What would your perfect new democracy look like?
Besides policies from different governments that you may disagree with, what specific reforms are needed in the democratic process?
Is there another country that you would like to model after?
As bad as you may think our democracy is, Which country has the oldest constitution in the world?
Which country has a bill of rights as great as ours?
Our country allows anyone (over some age limit) to run for any political office, except the presidency which requires US citizenship. How many other countries allow this?
In your opinion, is the US the best country on earth? If not, which is?
If you feel the US isn't best, why are you here?
"America may have its problems, but it is our home, and if you can't root for the home team, then you should get the hell out of the stadium"
~Stan from Southpark.
Blethen's opinion is vague and generalized, and really has no point that I can see. He wants to create a new democracy based on new journalism I think. Doesn't this mean that we should sack all of the old journalists to get some new perspectives? I just don't know where he is going.
From last month ...........
Before Ryan Blethen (Blethen ... that name is vaguely familiar) becomes utterly unhinged in his attempts to build bad analogies between George
Orwell's dystopia and George Bush's America, he needs to read Orwell's magnificent essays about the misuse of language. Does Mr. Blethen realize that he's not making sense? Does he care that he's manipulating language in a feeble attempt to manipulate rather than to inform or to persuade?
2006 is not Orwell's 1984. Even 1984, Reagan's morning in America, was not Orwell's 1984. Although he's oblivious to truth, Mr. Blethen needs at least to get out more, to deal with his Oedipal issues, and to check reality. He needs to quit rubbing his nose in what Orwell called the
smelly orthodoxies of the Left.
As for the tethers comment, I think that Ryan meant "The tenets of democracy are frayed"
Tenet - An opinion, doctrine, or principle held as being true by a person or especially by an organization
Or possibly the "tenants" (which would be the people living in the apartment of democracy)
Don't they have editors for this stuff?
Who IS Ryan's editor?
Isn't that supposed to be one of the key characteristics that sets a newspaper above and apart from lower forms of written discourse?
That there is an experienced and dispassionate individual, a full-time, paid professional journalist, who checks facts, spelling, and grammar, and makes corrections as required, to ensure that the finished product is as good as is humanly possible?
If there is such an individual performing this role for Ryan, the product reflects most unfavorably on said individual's efforts.
If Ryan doesn't have an editor, and instead is allowed to take his confused ramblings directly to print, then exactly how is his product any different from a blogger's?
Uh, Ryan's product differs from a blogger's because the bloggger DOESN'T enjoy free rein to insert his alleged prose unedited into the major newspaper of Seattle.
A cynic might add that the blogger must express a viewpoint without wafty bloviations, since the audience is a bit smaller than that enjoyed by the Seattle Times.
Ryan may turn out to be the George Bush of Editorials!
I can still see this spoiled, little rich boy pouring thru Daddy's "Big Boy" Dictionary...scouring for just the right synonym to make Daddy proud. What a KLOWN!!
Ryan will probably sent for a few weeks cruising on the Mediterranean to sort thru his many faux pas. You can bet he will try again....what else is this IDIOT qualified to do???
His article seems to be standard leftist fare
Those "in the know" can read between the lines -- hence the nearly complete absence of a statement by him about the particular remedies he favors.
He is amusing, though:
"Lagos knows well what happens when choice and voice are taken away by government. His family fled Greece in 1967 after a military junta."
Junta: a group of political intriguers, especially a group of military men in power after a coup d’etat.
If Lagos and his family fled “after a military junta,” to what place were they and the junta fleeing?
I cancelled my subscription to the Seattle Times paper edition a long time ago and read it on-line.
Why would anyone still give money every month to the leftist cheerleaders?
I can't be certain but I read the statement thusly
Yhe rabid watchdog which is our media, has broken its tether and has begun foaming at the mouth,
Rather than stand by and be bitten by the beast, those who believe in a democracy have opted to find a refuge elsewhere. They refuse to debate the matter and close their gates to prevent the untethered monster from poisoning them.
How old is this kid, anyway?
His piece was fairly obtuse.
Please tell me this idiot won't ever play a significant role in the Seattle Times. He is a discredit to liberalism (much of which I generally agree with) and to whichever elementary school attempted to teach him to write.
Here's another ridiculous passage: The rot of democracy is well advanced. Lobbyists multiply like rabbits, leaving the field of politics brown, dead, bent to their voracious appetite. Consolidation of the press and destructive partisan politics feed voter apathy.
Block that metaphor! Is the problem rot or rabbits? Rot kills things; rabbits eat them. And is the press really consolidating, given the web? And how is apathy simultaneously fed by this alleged consolidation (which presumably reduces debate) and partisan politics (which increases it)? As long as we're talking about feeding, do these things feed the rabbits, too?
19. Ha! Bruce, those passages you highlighted sound like he's trying to write poetry, doesn't it?? Just reset the lines in poetry form and you have lame trying-to-sound-erudite-and-profound poetry.
Micajah nails it, sounds to me like the kid is a Cornell West wanna be. Even the editorial reviews at Amazon blast CW for his rambling incoherent bloviations.
Keep in my that todays leftists don't need no stinking rules. Its all about the intent remember!
Ryan's little amateur hour show of Saturday is merely the comic relief to the major defeatist assault launched by the Sunday Times.
It's a breathtaking example of the hermetically sealed newsroom launching what they think is the final offensive required to topple the Bush administration - and the hell with reality on the ground in Iraq, and with the future hopes of civilization in the Middle East as well.
22. Hey, I think I can sum all of this up. Say WA!!!!! We're DOOOOOOMED!!!!!
23. Hey, I think I can sum all of this up. Say WA!!!!! We're DOOOOOOMED!!!!!
Misty suggested resetting the lines to poetry, and it was easy. Ryan is clearly a frustrated haiku master:
Our visibly frayed
tethers of democracy
are at a crossroads
from rabid detached voters
to falsehoods abound
Culture’s numbing glow
sedates almost everyone
but not kids like me
multiply and rot the brown
field of politics
waves of fluid voters: How?
To be decided
A watchdog helps a
democracy to flourish
but my dad shot it
(Extra credit to anyone who gets the reference in the final line.)
25. Bruce, the reference is to when Daddy B. shot the neighbor's dog with a pellet gun.
26. Bravo, Bruce. It was just begging to be done, wasn't it? :-)
27. Baby Blethen gives nepotism a bad name & a bad smell.
Come on, his statement is wordy, and has no basis in reality, but you know what he means by tether, as in bind, as in what binds us together as Americans. Just because he doesn't know what binds us together doesn't mean he didn't use it correctly. I think it's sad when conservatives have to make fun of a poorly presented thought when the liberals give us so many truly idiotic things to debate.
And dang you for making me defend this clown, and his stupid paper.
29. ...everything just seems to taste better with a silver spoon...can't wait for his "Undercover in Tent City" expose where he lives there for a month.
Let's take it a step further, shall we? This is jolly good fun.
"Our visibly frayed moorings
caused the Blethen boat to float
away from the dock.
The eroding, rabid dog
tore up my slipper.
I am numb and sedated
after reading my own words.
My rabbit ate
my rotten sandwich.
It was Bush's fault.
all the fluid, undecided voters.
Some of them live
in little mailboxes
no larger than my arm.
I'm sorry for my rantings
about watchdogs, democracy and
my dad shooting it. I don't know
what I was thinking."
31. This just in: Blethen Senior is being questioned in the recent acid mutilation of a pug mix. News at eleven.
That is priceless!
Yes, that first paragraph is a doozy, isn't it? It opens with an unclear reference to frayed democratic tethers in the first dramatic sentence. That is followed by a meandering 31-word sentence that defies the reader to continue reading. Then the third sentence gets a little fancy with that "has become so beholden to profit" phrase.
This is not clear communication. I wonder how many people bothered to continue to read the rest of the editorial after struggling with that first paragraph? An editorial that fails to generate interest in the opening lines is a failure, regardless of its message.
Garsh feeeel the pain.
Now I feel better.
I figured out what the tethers are - they are the chains that bind us all. Liberal Taxation, etc... and our "democracy" is tied to the tree like a goat - we can only get what they allow us to get, and everything else, including Freedom, is just beyond our grasp due to the aforementioned tethers.
The sooner the tetheres break, aloowing our democracy to actually flourish due to increased freedoms and opportunity, the better...
And the dude don't want that cos he's a lefty liberal ;0)
36. Ouch. My head hurts from having to roll my eyes so much after reading this lame excuse of an op-ed. Blithering Blethen is so embarrassingly out of his league. Quick! Someone pull him out before he drowns in his own cauldron of hapless, mentally-warped ramblings!!!