Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Wednesday Musings: Helen Thomas, Anti-Semitism, and the iPhone

Have you read about Helen Thomas, the famous White House reporter and her latest escapade? I used to run into her during the years I was a Washington reporter. When I would see her at the White House, she always treated me with respect and, I think, treated the presidents she covered with respect. She has covered every president since Eisenhower and she was always tough, and that was her job.

But she's in trouble now.

During the George W. Bush administration she became downright rude (she was quoted as calling him the "worst president in American history") and for her lack of diplomacy--one might call it bias--she spent three years in purgatory sitting the back row of briefings and not being called on at press conferences. White House reporters always have opinions about the presidents they cover: but they need to keep these to themselves. The Obama swoon we've seen from the Washington press is something we shouldn't be seeing.

Anyway, about Helen Thomas' latest fall on her keister. She made some really unpleasant, anti-Semitic remarks as she was leaving the White House, to a young man wearing a yarmulke. He had taken his son to see the White House and the two of them were doing the tourist thing, "interviewing" people who left the White House gate, and using a small video camera. The conversation went like this:

Nesenoff: Any comments on Israel? We're asking everybody today, any comments on Israel?
Thomas: Tell them to get the hell out of Palestine. (laughs)
Nesenoff: Oooh. Any better comments on Israel?
Thomas: (still laughing) Remember, these people are occupied and it's their land. It's not German, it's not Poland ...
Nesenoff: So where should they go, what should they do?
Thomas: Go home.
Nesenoff: Where is the home?
Thomas: Poland. Germany.
Nesenoff: So you're saying the Jews go back to Poland and Germany?
Thomas: And America and everywhere else.

Thomas is from a family of Lebanese immigrants.

When I read what she said I thought that perhaps, at 89, her brain was doing what I had seen my own father's brain do: it had a non-working edit button. It worked out that way with my mother a bit too, though she didn't have the diagnosed dementia excuse. Dad would say things he would never have thought of saying in the past: he told Mom she needed a face lift! He told a young relative she was fat! All his life he had been a thoughtful, compassionate person and these were not characteristic remarks.

That having been said, he had enough brainpower left to know that people expected an old man from Alabama to be a racist and even in his diminished state he went out of his way to make sure everyone, black, white, brown and otherwise, knew that he felt America was a place where racism did not belong. He was childlike in the way he expressed it, but it was clear he tried hard not to do what Helen Thomas ended up doing.

So, when I try to put the best construction on these unpleasant remarks she's made, I have to wonder if her brain isn't working right, that she is just repeating long-buried remarks she heard in her Lebanese family as a child, and now her edit button isn't working and they popped out. She has apologized for what she said. But the Hearst Corp, where she has been working since UPI was taken over by the Moonies, has retired her. That is the right outcome. If she's a anti-Semite, she hadn't ought to be working for an outfit like Hearst. And if she's losing it, well, then it is time to retire.

I hate what she said. But I do feel a little bit sorry for her. It is a sad way for a woman like Helen Thomas to end her career.

* * *

The world has changed so much since she began reporting and using a typewriter to file her reports with a "wire service." We all have our own news outfits now--in a manner of speaking--and I've been reminded of that in recent days as I've discovered how my new iPhone has changed the way I use my computer.

With the iPhone, I can check and send my email from anywhere I happen to be and I find that I tend not to differentiate between whether I'm texting one of my nieces or emailing my sister. It is all pretty much the same on the iPhone. The phone is small and handy, so I find myself walking into my office and using my laptop less and less.

It isn't easy to write a long article such as this one on an iPhone, so the computer with a keyboard will always be necessary, as far as I can tell. But for the smaller messages--even ones that include photos--it is much easier to use the phone.

Apple is so smart. The iPhone included a charger (most of the phones I've had in the last few years required that I buy a charger to fit them) and when you remove a piece of the charger it fits into a port on your computer so you can download your photos. It also included earbuds with a tiny microphone, another gadget I've had to buy for each new phone I've bought in the past.

Even for gadget-challenged people, the iPhone is easy to learn and use. Absolutely user-friendly. I'm now so sold on Apple, I am seriously considering getting a Mac instead of a PC for my next computer. I also understand now, why someone would use an iPad. Try lugging your laptop onto an airplane and carrying it around with you through the streets of Dublin, and you'll "get" the iPhone and iPad. Steve Jobs says the PC is the "truck" of the past and the iPad is the car.

He's probably right. Anyone who writes things longer than one paragraph will still need a computer that works like a typewriter. But I'm loving this new device and highly recommend it to everyone.

I just hope Helen Thomas doesn't use one to produce podcasts.

Add to Google Reader or Homepage

Subscribe to Robin Chapman News


Polly and Thad said...

Welcome to the world of Apple. Now you understand why we have been addicted all these years. Go ahead and get your iMac. Then we can use iSight to really visit!

Robin Chapman said...

We'll be iChatting with our 4G iPhones soon! I love this thing!

Laura said...

My kids are 20, 18 and 12, and when they were in elementary school Apple provided all the computers for the tech lab. From the first grade onward, they learned on a Mac.

Apple also puts together special deals for incoming college freshmen, at a special price and including a printer and an iPod. We took advantage of this when our daughter started at UCSC two years ago, and this summer we'll be buying our son a Mac as he starts at UC San Diego.

I have had a MacBook for a little over a year and I love it. My husband is a die-hard PC guy, but I think eventually I'll pull him over to the dark side. : D

I just wish iPhones worked where I live.

Robin Chapman said...

I am becoming an Apple convert myself. The iPhone is amazing!