The Molly Ivins Hall of Flames
Expanded from the 2-4-2007 Daily Sparks (Nev.) Tribune
Updated 2-11-2007, 3-21-2011, 9-24-2012, 8-3-2017 and 8-28-2019 and 8-9-2022
My initial, visceral, gutteral reaction upon hearing of the death of the great Molly Ivins came in a one-word blurt: sumbitch!
In a 1998 interview with C-SPAN, she was asked for her definition of the word. She replied that it was not an insult, but a Texas-sized compliment, as in "he's a good ole sumbitch."
Applying the term to Molly Ivins, the permutations and layers of meaning become increasingly spicy and delightful.
A few days later, that remains the best and by far the most economical (Strunk & White would be proud) tribute which can be laid like a cactus flower over the memory of that rugged blossom of the southwest.
My Tribune colleague in columny Jake Highton, writing last week before news of Ivins' death at 62 of breast cancer, noted that "when (Martin Luther King, Jr.) deplored the Vietnam War, he was accused of knowing nothing about foreign policy...When King attacked the savagery of capitalism and the gap between rich and poor, he was told he knew nothing about economics," Prof. Highton stated.
In Missing Molly Ivins in Friday's New York Times, eminent economist Paul Krugman said "Molly never lost sight of two eternal truths: rulers lie, and the times when people are most afraid to challenge authority are also the times when it's most important to do just that. And the fact that she remembered these truths explains something I haven't seen pointed out in any of the tributes: her extraordinary prescience on the central political issue of our time," Krugman wrote.
Just like Dr. King.
Krugman continued that "She explained her philosophy in a stinging 1995 article in Mother Jones magazine about Rush Limbaugh. 'Satire...has historically been the weapon of powerless people aimed at the powerful...When you use satire against powerless people...it is like kicking a cripple.'" (Back in 1988 when Lush Rambo's act was first metastasizing out of California, the porcine pontificator pummeled the City of Reno's appointment of a formerly homeless man to a homelessness advisory board.)
Krugman went on to list warnings about Iraq where, like MLK, Molly Ivins prognosticated like Princess Cassandra while the kings and demigods refused to listen and the shining city on the hill burned down as a result.
"Was Molly smarter than all the experts? No, she was just braver," Krugman concluded.
Brave souls abound to continue the good fight. Rep. John Murtha, D-Pa., Sen. Russ Feingold, D- Wisc., and Gov. Bill Richardson, D-New Mexico, want U.S. troops out of Iraq right away. (Richardson told Washoe Democrats on Jan. 27 that he wants our people out by the end of this year.)
Alas and alack, no one has Molly Ivins' scalpel, an edge which cost her. She got demoted and left The New York Times after she dared call a community chicken slaughter a "gang pluck."
IVINS: "I do try to write about politics in a way that makes people laugh. Now there's two reasons for that. One is politics is intrinsically funny and that and that this sh--should be noted and appreciated by all. And second, I think it's important wh--in--in a time when people l--so look down on politics and are so reluctant to get involved or even learn very much about it. You know, I constantly hear people say things like, 'Eh, politics. They're all crooks. Who cares?' Blah, blah, blah, blah. Very dismissive.
"And it seems to me that, in part, that's because people who write and report about politics make it so boring. I mean, you read those newspaper articles that start, 'House bill 327 was passed out of subcommittee by a unanimous vote on Tuesday,' (snores). I mean, who wants to read any more than that? You take--I've seen reporters, time and again, take all the juice and joy and life and comedy and drama and humanity and excitement out of politics. They just wring it all out--clop--and what they leave you with is this dried set of lifeless fact that has nothing--doesn't reflect at all the--the whole splendid panorama that is politics."
In her obituary last Thursday, the Times noted her demotion but still refused to print "gang pluck." In that 1998 C-SPAN interview (see right), she indicted the Times and the mainstream media as intentionally boring, plucking the humanity and thus the public interest out of political coverage, diminishing its importance in people's daily lives.
Molly Ivins was my kinda gal when it came to the appropriate insult. My favorite: "If his I.Q. slips any lower, we'll have to water him twice a day," she said of a congresscritter. [CORREXION: She used it in regard to the speaker of the Texas Legislature's lower house.]
If you think we're beyond that, look at the fern Nevada just planted in the governor's mansion.
While others can compose and carp about calluses on the rump of the body politick, we have no remaining original and interesting voices who do so. Us media types are all so damnably homogenous. (Queer bashers may now pause to look up that word.)
Herb Caen was a voice of the Bay Area so unique that he could not be homogenized (keep that dictionary open) and syndicated. Mike Royko wrote like Chicago talks.
In 1980, Kurt Vonnegut advised aspiring writers never to forget their roots
"I myself find that I trust my own writing most, and others seem to trust it, too, when I sound most like a person from Indianapolis, which is what I am," he stated.
Molly Ivins might translate it into Tejano: Dance with who brung ya.
I can think of no greater way to honor her than to initiate a Nevada Columnists Hall of Flames.
The selections are purely my own and are by no means exhaustive. I haven't read everyone who came down the pike. Giants like Mark Twain dwell in a separate pantheon.
The first qualification, other than being a longtime Nevada ink-stained wretch, is that you've gotta be dead. So here are the three initial inductees, in alphabetical order.
NED DAY. I met him when he was making waves for my old boss Bob Brown at the North Las Vegas Valley Times. Brown died and the paper went with him. Day was hired by the Las Vegas Review-Journal just in time for the Mafia scandals of the 1980's. His last column in 1987 was worthy of MLK's final speech in foreshadowing his own death.
Sending it from Hawaii while still on vacation, in the last paragraph, Day asked his editor to retain the piece "as a potential historical document, in the event I sleep with the fishes."
Day died while snorkeling and dark conspiracy theories have circulated through Gomorrah South ever since. Day was a kickass investigator who never accumulated many worldly goods, as a postmortem inventory of his spare apartment revealed. I remember him most because of his authentic, hard-edged streetwise voice. Ned Day was to LV as Royko was to the City of Big Shoulders.
HANK GREENSPUN. The old lion used his Las Vegas Sun to accumulate mountainous worldly goods in his later years. Of the three, he was by far the weakest, plainest writer. A lawyer by training, old Hank was fearless and pugnacious. His greatest triumphs came in the 1950's when he stood up against Sen. Patrick McCarran, D-Nev., a worse red-baiter than his more famous fellow traveler, Sen. Joseph McCarthy, R-Wisc. But Greenspun never lost his fire for standing up for the little guy and his impact on his community and state remain undeniable.
The Barbwire Molly Ivins Memorial Columniator Hall of Flames as of 9-18-2022
(in order of induction)
Travus T. Hipp
David W. Toll
Joseph M. Neal, Jr.
Travus T. Hipp installed as fifth member of Barbwire Molly Ivins Memorial Columniator Hall of Flames
Barbwire / 7-22-2012
Bob Brown installed in Ivins Hall of Flames
Barbwire / 3-20-2011
GUY RICHARDSON. By far the best writer of the three, witty and outright guffaw funny in just about every installment. Guy started in the backshop as a linotypesetter at the Reno Gazette-Journal, became entertainment editor and eventually columnist at large. He is directly responsible for Nevadans having read my work over lo, these many years. (See the Tribune of Feb. 23, 2003.)
There are a few Nevada contenders for inclusion alive and writing today. They are all mostly friends of mine and I won't insult them by attempting to quantify or categorize them. Time will do that for us.
I know of no one in print who currently rivals Caen, Ivins and Royko. We have great spoken-word satirists: Jon Stewart, Bill Maher, Lewis Black, George Carlin and Steven Colbert among others. But God never made another Mark Twain, Damon Runyon or Will Rogers. I suppose we will somehow muddle thru.
As Krugman noted, let us continue to applaud courage, which brings me to June Joplin, proprietress of Comma Coffee, an establishment across the street from our biennial petting zoo, better known as the Nevada State Legislature.
"Three weeks ago I awoke with a new awareness and direction," she writes.
"I could no longer be silent. I believe so strongly that it is morally, ethically and spiritually wrong to send any more of our troops, individual human beings, into this WIN-LESS war in Iraq. I don't know what one person can do. But I do know that each person must be true to their own heart and live and act accordingly, and that the powers that be must hear our voice. WE MUST FIND OUR VOICE! Whatever your political or religious beliefs, if you agree that we cannot in good conscience send more good after bad, then I ask you to join me on Mondays in front of the State Legislature Building, across the street from Comma Coffee, from 12:30-4:30 in a RALLY FOR PEACE."
It takes guts to risk your very public retail business in a Republican town.
Molly Ivins might simply say...
Be well. Raise hell.
Some of Molly Ivins' greatest hits
Reno war protestors march in memory of Molly
February 7, 2007
A group of Reno anti-war activists took the late newspaper columnist Molly Ivins' final words to heart and put them into action Tuesday.
"We're doing this for Molly," said Paula McDonough, who organized the Molly Ivins Pots 'n' Pan Brigade that protested the war in Iraq outside the Bruce Thompson Federal Building in downtown Reno. "We're doing this because Molly asked us to."...
Johnson, Chalmers; REPUBLIC OR EMPIRE? A National Intelligence Estimate on the United States; Harper's magazine; January, 2007; (not available online for several months, if at all). I love it when heavy hitters validate what I've been saying for years in the tiny Sparks Tribune.
Barlett, Donald L. and Steele, James B.; America: What Went Wrong? (1992); America: Who Really Pays the Taxes? (1994); America: Who Stole the Dream? (1996) ; Andrews & McMeel/Universal Press Syndicate. For additional comments on the work of the two-time Pulitzer Prize-winning team, use the NevadaLabor.com search engine and sweep for "Barlett."
Review of Alex Carey's Taking the Risk Out of Democracy:
Propaganda in the US and Australia
The Orwell Diversion by Alex Carey
Excerpted from the book available below
ORDER Taking the Risk Out of Democracy
Corporate Propaganda versus Freedom and Liberty
By Alex Carey
Edited by Andrew Lohrey
Foreword by Noam Chomsky
University of Illinois Press
SEE ALSO: Lapham, Lewis H.; Tentacles of Rage: The Republican Propaganda Mill, A Brief History; Harper's Magazine cover article; September, 2004, page 32.
By one conservative estimate, the corporate right has spent about $3 billion over the past three decades manufacturing public opinion to suit big business goals. Lapham's number covered the early 1970's to the present day. Alex Carey noted that by 1948, anti- New Deal corporate propaganda expenditures had already reached $100 million per year, not adjusted for inflation, for advertising alone. (Carey, ibid; page 79)
Adjusted for inflation, that 1948 $100 million becomes $801,659,751.04 in 2005 dollars.
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Andrew Barbano is a 38-year Nevadan, editor of NevadaLabor.com and SenJoeNeal.org, and a longtime member of the Reno-Sparks NAACP. As always, his opinions are strictly his own. Barbwire by Barbano has originated in the Daily Sparks (Nev.) Tribune since 1988.
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