Sunday, December 24, 2006

The Nation's Slap In The Face to women

For reasons unknown, the January 1, 2007 issue of The Nation features an insulting piece to women written by non-lefty Peter Bergen. It's entitled "Waltizing With Warlords" and Bergen yammers on from pages 25 through 28 engaging in stereotypes and insulting women.

It starts (shades of Nicky Kristoff?) with Bergen visiting a whorehouse and we're all supposed to titter. Right away, you grasp you're in the smutty terrain generally navigated by Hugh Hefner and wondering exactly what would outrage The Nation enough to kill a piece of smutty slurs? Apparently it takes quite a great deal more than Bergen has to offer.

Bergen yammers on about the madame, the "more than a dozen scantily clad smiling young Chinese women sprawled" and the "several women" who whisper in his and his friends' ears. Suddenly, Bergen (a supreme hack) wants to tell you of an explosion. You've had your pud teasing, now it's time to go for the blood and gore. He then goes on to bore the reader for several more paragraphs before getting to what he was hired to do (or officially hired to do -- possibly they're also trying to work in a "Dear Penthouse" feature to The Nation?): review three books.

The nut shell version is that two women write books and one man writes a book. Guess which one Peter Bergen likes? Yes, the male's book. The women are emotional and mysterious and not since Nietzsche has anyone worked so hard to sell slurs as praise. The women are focused on the rights of women and the male just wants to write a "picaresque stories of adventures on the road" (Bergen's words) and that's so much more interesting than hearing about women's rights. (Not surprisingly, Bergen's organization -- the centrist New American Foundation -- published an alarmist book decrying declining birth rates in what's generally termed 'advanced' societies. As the United Nations has long noted, declining birth rates are tied to improvements for families and for women's rights. Click here for but one example.)

With journalist Sarah Chayes, Bergen seems to feel her eye witness account suffers from . . . the fact that he can verify it. (Verifying the male account never enters Bergen's sexist mind.) With Ann Jones, Bergen finds her so emotional, she's a 'conspiracy theorist.' Bergen insults Jones and readers of the magazine by denying "that the CIA trained and funded" what became the Taliban (in the 80s) and denying the power the dreamed of gas pipeline played in American decision making throughout the nineties and after.

Now we could go to Greg Palast or the BBC to show what a fool Peter Bergen is. But this garbage appears in The Nation. So maybe the better question is why did The Nation publish Gore Vidal's Dreaming War in 2002 (it remains one of the few bestsellers the imprint Nation Books has ever seen -- gag books and joke books don't generally have long shelf lives)?

If Bergen's correct then Gore Vidal's entire book is wrong. Not only did The Nation publish Vidal's book, it continues to sell the book -- without corrections.

So which is it? Is centrist and hack Bergen correct or is Gore Vidal? Is The Nation going to stand with a writer of merit (Vidal) or the personal friend of someone at the magazine?

The tawdry crap Bergen churns out doesn't belong in The Nation.

The long-winded, non-review also contains a familiar subtext: women's rights don't matter. Feminists engaged in the Afghanistan issue in the 90s, trying to get a non-responsive Congress and administration to pay attention, will remember that message. It's back today and Bergen's selling it. For some strange reason, Bergen's selected to review three books on Afghanistan.

Apparently, The Nation knows of no women qualified to address the topic of Afghanistan so they had to go with a self-proclaimed 'terror expert.' (Strange, in and of itself, when you consider that The Nation regularly tells readers the so-called war on terror is bunk.) For future reference, here's three women who can address the topic quite well (and much better than 'centrist' Bergen): Weeda Mansoor, Sunita Mehta and Fariba Nawa. That's just three, there are many others.

2006 was appalling for The Nation in terms of the small number of women who made it into print and in terms of the topics covered. In 2007, we'll be following the issues quite closely. There are no free passes. The fact that a woman's making all the decisions for the magazine while women are repeatedly sidelined as topics and contributors is especially sad.

For more on this topic, see Wally's "THIS JUST IN! THE NATION MAGAZINE SAYS 'SHUT UP, CHICKS!'," Cedric's "Why does Katrina vanden Heuvel hate women and love centrists?,"
and Rebecca's "the nation gives a sexist space to lie." ADDED: And Mike's "Christmas Is Almost Here."
Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported License.
Poll1 { display:none; }