Monday, December 06, 2004

Kristof Rocks Kiev!

An old mentor of mine, years before he left his rocker, advised me to avoid kneejerk reactions to certain figures and statements. I've tried to live by this, difficult though it is (given the abject kneejerk times we currently enjoy), but few things get my knee a'springin' faster than NY Times columnists offering their views on "freedom." You won't find a more remote, elitist group than this Op-Ed bunch (the Wall Street Journal's page, by contrast, is very much engaged). Each scribe has a way with homily, with instruction from on high, esp Thomas Friedman, master of the If-Only-I-Ran-The-World, How-Much-Better-Things-Would-Be routine, a shameless comedy offering that garners awards, book deals and handsome public speaking fees for the guy. Why jack with a steady gig?

For my dough, no Times Op-Edder can currently touch Nicholas Kristof, humanitarian advocate for Third World sweatshops. Kristof won a Pulitzer in 1990 for his (along with co-winner/wife Sheryl WuDunn) reporting on the Tiannemen Square demonstrations in Beijing. Since then, it seems that Kristof has been searching for his Tiannemen II, a mass outpouring where he can set up his equipment and sing his extended version of "Free Bird," belted out in 700-word choruses.

Looks like Kristof has found a new stage in Kiev, Ukraine.

His Dec. 4 column, direct from the Orange Revolution, is one of the more self-indulgent takes I've seen in the US press coverage of Ukrainian events, but then, we're talking Timesman here. It's a very simplistic piece, filled with the requisite hosannas to American exceptionalism (Everybody Wants To Be Like Us). But Kristof turns it up to 11. Spurred by the adoring crowds, he shifts away from Tiannemen and slides toward Woodstock:

"Most Ukrainians love the U.S., and to be an American here - any American - is to be a rock star. Protesters overhear me speaking English and line up to ask me to autograph their orange ribbons with a big 'U.S.A.'"

Can you imagine such a scene in Times Square?

"Hey, isn't that Pulitzer Prize winner Big Nick Kristof?! Man, he fuckin' rocks! I want him to sign my tits!"

Maybe Kristof's going for a Grammy. More on his Ukraine Tour '04 as it rolls on . . .