Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Rabbit Men of Washington

"You know it isn't true and I know it isn't true. So what do we care what they think?"

 -- Pseudolus, "A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum"
The Encyclopedia of Scams brings us the story of the Rabbit Woman of Godalming:
One summer's day during the year 1726, a young woman by the name of Mary Toft, fell ill whilst working in the fields. She groaned, and swooned and clutched at her stomach. Her husband fetched a doctor, a man by the name of John Howard, who was confounded to find the young woman giving birth to small rabbits. Each rabbit was born stillborn and was found cut into several small pieces.

Word of this odd medical curiosity spread throughout England and eventually, King George himself sent his surgeon, Nathanael St Andre and the Prince of Wales secretary Samuel Molyneux. They were also amazed to see the young woman producing small baby bunny bits from between her legs.

Mary was brought to London where he was the toast of British society until eventually the pressure of fame became too much. She admitted her hoax and spent four months in Prison. She has a real, live human baby one year later.

According to Dr Ian Stevenson, Mary’s scam was believed by so many doctors because it agreed with the concept of Maternal Impressions, the idea that the woman’s experiences and feelings could imprint on a baby. This idea explain other birth defects as the mother’s fault. Maternal Impressions have since been debunked.
Making a buck conjuring nonsense out of nowhere that agrees with the prevailing opinions of Very Serious People is nothing new.

If Mary Toft were alive today, she'd raking it in as a Senior Managing Editor at Politico.
After initially refusing to address Erik Wemple’s exhaustive documentation of Mike Allen’s pattern of parroting the editorial line of his advertisers, Politico editor John Harris appeared on Howard Kurtz’s Fox News show to rebut the charges. Well, “rebut” may be too strong a term. He acknowledged the charges and then strung together a series of words in response to them. But the words do not make a great deal of sense...
Or a booker on Meet the Press.

Or a newly-minted senior vice-president for content monetization at Time, Inc.
Within the next six months, its parent, the media conglomerate Time Warner, hopes to spin off Time Inc. into a separate public company. But if the plan succeeds, Time Inc. will become independent at a difficult moment. Not only do the magazine industry’s fortunes continue to sag, but Time Inc. has also shown signs of instability. It has churned through three chief executives in the last three years, and lost a star editor, its former editor in chief Martha Nelson.

To combat these negative forces, Time Inc. will abandon the traditional separation between its newsroom and business sides, a move that has caused angst among its journalists. Now, the newsroom staffs at Time Inc.’s magazines will report to the business executives. Such a structure, once verboten at journalistic institutions, is seen as necessary to create revenue opportunities and stem the tide of declining subscription and advertising sales.
In the Libertarian Utopia of Tomorrow towards which we are plummeting, this is what free market, laisser-faire "journalism" looks like.


Yastreblyansky said...

Holy shit, Time???? The original home of "church and state" separation of ads from editorial? The old fascist Henry Luce will be be spinning so hard you'll be able to use his grave as a centrifuge.

Horace Boothroyd III said...

This is going to date me, but for decades I have been saying "LOOK is for people who can't read, TIME is for people who can't think."