Media: apology to Howard Dean for "primal scream" coverage

Reply Tue 27 Jan, 2004 10:54 am
Posted on Tue, Jan. 27, 2004
Difference between us and Dean? Not a whole yell of a lot

By Dave Lieber
Star-Telegram Staff Writer

We who work in the news media owe Howard Dean an apology about the way we reported his primal scream during the past week. We are responsible for a grave injustice.

After he placed third in the Iowa caucuses, Dean screamed during his concession speech. On the Drudge Report Web site, Matt Drudge reported the scream with these letters:


For those keeping score at home, that's one Y, 12 A's, four R's, six H's and nine exclamation points. Please note that because my space here is limited, for the rest of this analysis, I will abbreviate the above as a simple "YARH!" Sometimes, I may also use the code word "Ditto" to say the same thing, OK?

Anyway, the reason we owe this man (whom, by the way, I do not support for president) an apology is because we say that we want our presidents to be one of us. But when they act like one of us, then we beat them up and say they are not acting presidential.

My theory here (and this is the most important paragraph in this column) is that we live in what I would call a "YARH!" Culture. Every day, many events occur that make each of us want to scream "YARH!" So when someone who actually wants to be our leader does this, why do we act surprised?

Does anyone really believe that Jack Kennedy, Lyndon Johnson, Richard Nixon and Jimmy Carter never screamed? (Of course, nice guy Gerald Ford probably never did, but he wasn't elected.)

For the purposes of this sociological analysis, this past weekend I kept track of the number of times I shouted "YARH!" It was a typical weekend, in which I spent most of my time chaperoning my 6-year-old son from one event to another as part of the overstimulation of America's youth that we baby boomer parents do so well. In my case, I noticed that my "YARH!" score was incredibly high.

The shouting began the moment my son returned home from school late Friday afternoon. He smiled sweetly at me and said, "I'm disappointed in you, Dave Lieber." (Sometimes he calls me that instead of "Daddy.")

"Why's that?" I asked.

"Because of your nose, Dave Lieber," he replied.

"What's wrong with it?" I asked.

"There's a booger," he answered.

Of course, I reached for my nose, but, alas, it was booger-free.

He then said, "Ha! Ha! Monkey always looks! Monkey always looks!"

At that very moment, I uttered my first "YARH!" of the weekend.

On Friday night, we attended a 1950s-style "sock-hop" dance at his elementary school. When we entered the school, they took our tickets. But they also should have given us each an aspirin to prepare us for what came next.

The sock hop was one of the loudest events I have attended in my life. What the event turned out to be was an excuse for 400 children to scream at the top of their lungs inside their elementary school and not get into trouble.

When we returned home after the scream-a-thon, my little son was so wound up that the "YARH!ing" continued. As my notes show:

My wife said to our son, "Stop yelling!"

Then she yelled, "Stand up!"

He yelled back at her, and then she yelled, "Get in your pajamas!"

He yelled again, and she yelled, "Stop yelling!"

I have several more pages of notes that go on like this, but I know that you get the idea.

On Saturday morning, we attended the first game of my son's basketball league. His teammates yelled at one another that they were open for a pass. The coaches yelled about moving into the correct position, taking the proper shot or playing better defense. The parents yelled in support of their kids. And all this yelling bounced off the gym walls nonstop for the entire hour. It was as bad as the dance the night before.

Later that morning, we went to Bear Creek Park in Keller to go fishing at a city-sponsored event. While we set up, I got a hook caught in my hand.


Then my son cast his line into some trees.


Then he cast his line into some thick bushes.


We caught no fish.

Double ditto!

On Saturday night, my son and I prepared to attend the annual Pinewood Derby car-racing event sponsored by his Cub Scout pack. I had spent the previous week working with my son to build his little wooden car, then painting it and finally affixing the plastic wheels.

Unbeknownst to me, my son decided to play with his car at home before the event. So, of course, the wheels fell off.


When I tried to reglue the axle to the bottom of the car with Super Glue, my fingers stuck to the car. Then the glue slid along the axle and the wheels glued themselves to the car so the wheels wouldn't turn.


Finally, I fixed the car. At the races, my son's car was much slower than the other cars. One little red car, in particular, traveled very fast. I asked the father who helped his son build that car to share his secret. He answered -- and, again, this is a direct quote from my notes, "Force equals mass times acceleration, and from that we can derive velocity."

I knew right away, in the seconds before I screamed, that this was not the kind of father who glued his fingers to his son's car.

So to Howard Dean, on behalf of our nation, I offer my most sincere apology. Many, if not most of us, yell or at the very least want to yell about something at least once a day. We are more like you than we would dare admit. If we don't like you for what you did, then maybe we don't like ourselves.
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Type: Discussion • Score: 1 • Views: 1,120 • Replies: 8
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Reply Tue 27 Jan, 2004 11:03 am
its not enough
This column is a poor exmple for an apology to Dean, but its better than none.

The real apology owed to Dean is that the Media failed to put Dean's performance in context of his audience. If they had shown long camera shots instead of isolating Dean, it would have shown a normal reaction between speaker and audience and created an intirely different impression. Many news programs repeatedly showed short clips of Dean's speech that did not include it's entirety. For example, Chris Mathews Hard Ball must have shown the clip at least ten times in a one hour show. CNN did likewise. I don't watch Fox, but I assume their excessive coverage.

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Reply Tue 27 Jan, 2004 12:58 pm
Re: its not enough
BumbleBeeBoogie wrote:
If they had shown long camera shots instead of isolating Dean, it would have shown a normal reaction between speaker and audience and created an intirely different impression.


Here we have a "lose, lose" scenario for Howard Dean.

In the critical world in which we live, the media does not owe an apology to Dr. Dean. Neither a long camera shot nor one isolating Dean would have been approved by his apologists.

The fact remains that Dean is a public figure. The coverage of his silly scream may or may not have been fair. It did, however, show a different side of Dean. Potential voters needed to see this gaffe by a man who is running to become the most influential elected official in the world.
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Brand X
Reply Tue 27 Jan, 2004 01:37 pm
Whether it was a poor attempt at an apology or not it's still like trying to put toothpaste back in the tube. The rant is out there and can't be retracted by Dean or the media.
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Reply Tue 27 Jan, 2004 01:52 pm
It would seem to me that anything a candidate did in the process of making a speech would be reported, and properly so. Public figures in public places are a part of the news. In any case, that seems to apply to President Bush.

What am I missing here?
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Reply Tue 27 Jan, 2004 02:00 pm
I hear ya, Roger. And Dean should have thought of that before he issued his YARH! Even though it is nasty and I am fed up with it, it is nothing shocking or inappropriate.
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Reply Tue 27 Jan, 2004 02:38 pm
MY opinion of Dean remains unchanged after the YARH! heard round the world.

What difference could it possibly make? So he got excited? Who cares?
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Brand X
Reply Tue 27 Jan, 2004 02:46 pm
The rant and/or rant being reported and replayed over and over was moot anyway, it happened after he had done poorly in Iowa's results. The Iowa votes are what tarnished his appeal.
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Reply Tue 27 Jan, 2004 04:36 pm
Agreed two times (with McG and Brand).

It struck me as a media pile-on, one of the vilest yet this campaign season.

We need our media to allow the candidates to talk about issues, but this is the sort of thing they would rather focus on. This, and polls, who's going to drop out next, etc.

It's really despicable but there seems to be no getting them to be called to account.
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