Unethical Journalist of the Week: Aaron Flint, of The Northern Broadcasting Network

Well, why not…before all-Mikado Saturday comes to an end, I might as well highlight this astounding example of spectacularly incompetent journalism by the Northern Broadcasting Network’s Aaron Flint, who actually posted this hilarious idiocy on his “Flint Report” (I will have to comment on the text as it goes, since there is too much nonsense to take in all at once.)

His headline: “Palin Beheaded in Missoula Play”

Palin was not “beheaded” in the show; and it is not a “play,” but a classic 19th century operetta that anyone with a basic education should at least recognize. If not, how about a little research? There’s a huge entry on “The Mikado” in Wikipedia…the show being, after all, perhaps the most performed piece of musical theater of all time, world-wide. Then the “story”:

“A Missoula theatre has ordered the re-write of the script involved in a recent production of “The Mikado,” and apologized to theatre-goers after a reference to beheading Sarah Palin was included in the play….”

There was no re-write: one line of one verse of one song was replaced (the term is “a cut”). There is no reference to “beheading” Sarah Palin anywhere in the show. The context of the satirical song is people “whose loss would be a distinct gain to society at large,” and beheading is not mentioned in the song. The only line mentioning Palin was “And that crazy Sarah Palin needs a psychoanalyst”; note that beheaded people do not need psychoanalysts.

Flint’s misleading and horribly researched “story” continues with Rory Page’s inaccurate and ignorant letter of complaint, then cites the preview of the production printed a while ago. Flint then writes…

“No mention of the Palin beheading in the preview.”

This because there is no “Palin beheading” in the show!!!

“And so far by local media- no mention of the Palin beheading in the aftermath of this ruckus that has gained national attention.  Imagine if this came from someone on the right and dealt with one of their darling political figures?”

No, Aaron, this isn’t the reason. The reason is that they have some knowledge of culture and satire, and understand that political personalities of all parties and ideologies have been included on Ko-Ko’s list in the thousands, for over a century, with no one complaining or being offended until some illiterate, humor-challenged Montanans decided to pick on a community theater production. The rest of the media also checked its facts, perhaps, and learned that there was no Palin beheading, real, suggested, or portrayed.

Later, our fearless reporter files this:

” I have been on the road, and a little late at updating the website.  Today, I had a live show from Missoula, and then spoke to the Missoula Pachyderm Club at noon.  During the Q&A portion of the meeting, members of the club told me of the disgusting incident which took place at- get this of all places- The Missoula Children’s Theater.”

Glad you “updated” this, Aaron. We have known that reports of the show being performed by the Children’s Theater were erroneous for a day now, and we also know that there was no “disgusting incident,” since Ko-Ko has been running down his “little list” since 1885 thousands of times, world-wide, every year, and your breathlessly announcing this as news, or as a “disgusting incident,” is roughly equivalent to filing a story that Elmer Fudd has been shooting at rabbits. Except that story would be more accurate.

After noting the Wall Street Journal’s comments and other links, Flint writes:

“Pachyderm Club Member Keith Baer told me he was at the show last night and said once he began booing the production, several other members of the audience joined in.  “

Now this is your headline, Aaron: Boorish, Uncultured Members of Pachyderm Club Boo Community Theater Production Because They Don’t Understand “The Mikado” It’s a tragic story about isolation and a rotten educational system in Missoula that breeds culturally deprived clods and satire-challenged ignoramuses. Flint’s orgy of self-humiliation concludes…

Normally I would only post an excerpt from another source, but in this case I felt it was important to post the full text of Rory’s letter to the editor.  Especially considering the absurd and hateful rhetoric that has been used against Palin…

Except that Rory’s letter has nothing to do with hateful rhetoric, since there is none in the production. His letter has some, though.

“I understand the production is taking place again tonight.  Someone bring a camera and expose these people.”

Or better yet, rent one of the several video productions of the show. Or watch the Academy Award nominated film “Topsy Turvy,” which is about the original 1885 production. You do occasionally check some facts, don’t you Aaron? I mean, not with this story, but sometimes?

And does Aaron really expect a camera to record an actual beheading? It would seem so. Wow. If anyone has swampland in Florida to unload, this guy is your mark.

“You may recall last week’s post where another Missoula liberal stated how he wished Congressman Rehberg would have died in the Flathead Lake boat crash.”

Anyone who can explain how this final line relates in any logical way to a production of “The Mikado,” please write to me, Jack Marshall, at 2707 Westminster Place, Alexandria, VA.

I’m sure there has been, somewhere, in the last half-century perhaps, a blog post, a news report, an on-the-scene broadcast—a high school newspaper story, perhaps— that is more incompetent, contemptuous of the facts, under-researched, historically and culturally illiterate, lazy, misleading, hysterical and outright moronic than Aaron Flint’s story about the Missoula Mikado.

But I haven’t seen it.

Thank God.

20 thoughts on “Unethical Journalist of the Week: Aaron Flint, of The Northern Broadcasting Network

  1. Mikado- Mikado-Mikado….my how you worship at the Holy Grail of the Mikado. I’m sorry- The Mikado.

    Jack- feel free to send me video of the actual production in Missoula, MT- not the DVD you can buy of another version of the show on Amazon- and if there indeed was no reference to the beheading of Sarah Palin in the production- I will gladly post an entry on my same blog pointing out the information.

    In the meantime, The Missoulian felt the letter to the editor factual enough to print the LTE. In addition, two other people I talked with Friday afternoon backed up the statements said in the LTE. On top of that, the MCT themselves apparently deemed the complaints of their attendees and longtime supporters factual enough to order a re-write….oh-I’m sorry…a cut.

    Maybe you have spent time in Missoula, MT. Did you attend this production? You would also know that the locals don’t see any difference between the Missoula Children’s Theatre and the Missoula Community Theatre- they are one in the same.

    The bigger picture that didn’t seem to raise your “ethics alarm” is the disgusting attacks that the cultural elites, the aristocrats, and her critics in the bureaucracy have launched against Sarah Palin. The very aristocrats and cultural elites that you seem to think the Mikado was designed to criticize.

    I know you will want to go back and forth all day long, but at the end of the day:

    (From your own website “about” page)[Ethics Alarms are the feelings in your gut, the twinges in your conscience, and the sense of caution in your brain when situations involving choices of right and wrong are beginning to develop, fast approaching, or unavoidable. The better your alarms work and the sooner they start sounding, the more likely you are to do the right thing, or at least to use good ethical reasoning to decide what to do. This is a blog that aspires to help keep everyone’s ethics alarms in good working order.]

    It seems you can’t even understand why the ethics alarms of folks back here in Montana might be ringing.

    As for news value: the MCT actually ordered something cut from their play…ahem- operetta….that you say never existed in the first place. That news alone is worth covering in the local media. If that wasn’t the case- then report on the story and show us that wasn’t the case. As I said, I will gladly post the video. But to ignore the story, that even has some dude in Alexandria, VA fired up- is not something you would expect of a newspaper.

    Bottom line: people are sick of the disgusting personal attacks on Sarah Palin, and especially in the wake of the misplaced blame immediately following the Arizona shootings- the alarm bells are ringing.

    • Yes, Aaron, I have been in touch with the company and the cast, from Alexandria, VA, which you could and should have done yourself, being a local journalist. As I surmised from my knowledge of the show and the way public figures are traditionally mentioned in the song “I’ve Got A Little List”, Sarah Palin was on Ko-Ko’s list of people society wouldn’t miss if he—as a non-performing official “executioner”, ever had to actually execute someone. The song speaks of people who “never would be missed,” not people who should be beheaded. it is an old, old, OLD routine which has earned acceptance by virtue of being classic, performed in all settings, nations and age groups, and also obviously a joke. Only someone who 1) isn’t paying attention 2) looking to cause trouble and 3) immune to satire would ever regard the song as “beheading Sarah Palin.”

      The Missoulian felt the letter to the editor factual enough to print because the Missoulian didn’t know what it was talking about…like you, it didn’t perform due diligence on what is a well-known theater piece to most of the rest of the world. Ignorance by others does not excuse ignorance. MCT themselves did not deem the complaints legitimate; MCT has to worry about contributions and funding, and when journalists like you represent a harmless line about “needing a psychiatrist” as a BEHEADING, as well as “disgusting” and hate speech, it is hard for a small theater company to exist amidst the lies. Their capitulation (I wouldn’t have) to ignorance and bullying proves nothing, and you know it.

      As with your coverage of the production, you didn’t research my blog very well either. My Ethics Alarms were set off by the attacks on Palin in the wake of Tucson, and I wrote condemning those attacks repeatedly. That media disgrace does not justify doing the exact same thing to a community theater production of “The Mikado,” to which I may add, “Duh!”

      There is no good reason for the ethics alarms of anyone, in Montana or anywhere, to ring over what was in this production. That’s a fact. If they were ringing, it was because of willful ignorance,paranoia,and the desire of partisan fanatics to make cheap points at teh expense of innocents— and in your case, lousy, lazy, inflammatory, unethical reporting.

      There was no Sarah Palin beheading as your ridiculous headline stated. There was no call for the death of Sarah Palin, regardless of what a few addled Republicans might have said or thought. you could have easily determined that. You couldn’t be bothered

      You owe the group—and the readers you misled— a retraction, and an apology. It is really that simple.

      • Also, getting cited by Ko-ko (who, while not a bad person, was never intended to be a moral authority in the first place) doesn’t mean really anything; everyone from FDR, Nixon, and Hitler to Berkeley activists, telemarketers, and Pentium computers has gotten at least 1 mention on the execution list over the years.

      • First off Jack- I didn’t cover the production- I linked to the discussion concerning the production on my blog. I also mentioned, in addition to the letters to the editor, 2 other first hand witnesses of the production. Like I say- shoot me the video and I’ll check it out- would be great to see. I love a good satire- especially one produced right there in your neighborhood- Capitol Steps. They go after everyone and its hilarious. But that only makes me wonder- who else made Ko Ko’s List in Thursday night’s production other than Sarah Palin? Any other political figures?

  2. You are all out of your minds. “The Mikado” is a 19th century Gilbert and Sullivan satiric musical, and as every one who knows anything at all G&S, it transcends time and place.

    For “updates” of Ko-Ko’s patter song are wholly appropriate, and W.S. Gilbert would not only welcome it but expect it.

    Is it 9/11 that has made us so paranoid about free speech? Go back to George Mason’s history and learn what he did to ensure the Bill of Rights. Of course, you morons can discount him because he was a slave-holder, but he was a creature of his time, and insisted against all odds, that the new U.S. Constitution would pass only if the “inalianable rights” were spelled out specifically. Hence the Bill of Rights, and all the Supreme Court decisions that hinge on it.

    So who the hell are you to attack a community theater production of
    “Mikado” and presume to tell them they are out line and are promlgating murder and hate speech? FIND A BETTER PROJECT, YOU MORONS.

      • No, but loosing an ideology-maddened hoard with their hair-trigger media supporters to stifle political satire is a great way to stifle speech, particularly when the criticism is an inflammatory misrepresentation: Mild insult of political figure by calling her “crazy” in a song sung by the show’s comedian, dressed as a comic executioner, becomes hate speech and incitement to murder. It was irresponsible to write the letter, unfair to print it, and outrageous for anyone to use the letter as its source of information. Result: the group is intimidated into pulling a line from the show.

      • Did you see the production? Do you know the lyrics of the song?
        Satire is and has been a part of English and American literature for centuries. I have the right to call anyone on ill-informed commentary if that’s how I see it. Read Swift’s “A Modest Proposal,” as mentioned in an earlier comment.

        Are you among those who condemn books they haven’t read,, but only have read ABOUT? Free speech is great. Ignorant speech is another thing entirely.

  3. Aaron,
    I would argue people are just sick of Sarah Palin in general. It’s amazing that nearly 2 years after losing her bid for the vice-presidency and over a year since she resigned as governor of Alaska, she’s STILL in the news as much as ever — why? Despite her recent popularity in some circles, Palin is not especially influential in either the Tea Party movement or the Republican party more generally; she’s simply good for headlines (which, in turn, eat up endless media cycles with he-said/she-said nonsense).

    In other words, if you want the attacks on Palin to stop then don’t dignify them with a response and, moreover, don’t make mountains out of molehills or crusading against imagined threats. Otherwise you’re only entrenching the stupidity even further as each side feels it necessary to “refudiate” the other, and on it goes. Whatever your feelings on Palin, good or bad, I just don’t see that she’s worth the effort and, moreover, even if she’s was, she doesn’t need your help to do it ..


    • Of course, Neil…absolutely. And “I’ve got a little list” is, and has ever been, a list of people and things “everyone is sick of.” She is perfect for the list in every way. I thought the “crazy” line was a bit crude, but the issue was her inclsion on the list—and that’s what the list means…I’m sick of her, not “I want to kill her.”

    • I can answer that, Aaron, because I checked with the cast. Palin was the only figure mentioned by name—the others, as usual in the song, were, broad types—people who don’t signal when they turn, things like that. “All people who eat peppermint and puff it in your face.” The company wasn’t advocating death as a penalty for non-signaling and peppermint eating, either. Yup—I would have preferred to see several political/media figures specified (though Gilbert never used names, just allusions) as in the original lyrics—say, Sarah, Barney Frank, Rush, Harry Reid, Keith Olbermann and Ahnold. That would have been fairer—but still not “beheadings”.

      • Thanks for clarifying that Sarah Palin was the only politico mentioned. What were the on-stage visuals in addition to the script? (That’s why the video would be interesting) Do you have a copy of the actual Missoula script? What do you think led the theatre-goers to believe that a beheading was referenced? Feel free to email it to me if you’d like.

        • Aaron…I am told by members of the cast whom I specifically queried that the visuals were no different than the visuals always used for this particular song. The set up is that Ko-Ko was a cheap tailor condemned to death “for flirting” under the Mikado’s law, in the Japanese town of Titipu. The town, which liked flirting but didn’t want to defy the Mikado (later revealed as bats), had Ko-Ko appointed “Lord High Executioner” so no one could be executed until he decapitated himself, which is impossible—that was the whole idea. Ko-Ko then enters with a grand chorus entrance (“Behold the Lord Hihg Executioner!”), traditionally with a headsman axe on his shoulder, You can see a picture of a typical Ko-Ko in the heading graphic above: he’s to the right of Glenn Beck, who is far left near the top. Then Ko-Ko hands off the axe, and says this:

          “Gentlemen, I am touched by this reception. I can only trust that by strict attention to duty I shall assure a continuance of these attentions that it will always be my study to deserve.” [TRANSLATION: ” As long as I don’t execute anybody, since I would have to chop my own head off, I will continue to be honored in the phony-baloney job–right?]
          He then introduces the song by saying, facetiously (he is talking about whom he MIGHT behead after he beheads himself—which he knows he will never do. Later we learn that he can’t harm a fly.) this:
          “If I am ever called upon to act professionally, I am happy to think that there will be no difficulty finding plenty of people whose loss will be distinct gain to society at large.”

          Ko-Ko then pulls out a gag scroll, which unrolls to a ridiculous length, and begins “reading” from it—his endless list of possible victims IF he ever was forced to execute someone—which he has made clear he never will. There is no other visual to the song, becaues it is very fast, like “Trouble in River City”—Ko-Ko just runs through his list, with occasional pauses for laughs or mugging. The key to the joke is that his song ends like this….

          “But the task of filling up the blanks I’d rather leave to YOU
          “For it really doesn’t matter who you place upon the list
          For they’d none of them be missed!
          They’d none of them be missed!”

          Everyone is dispensable, everyone is a fool, everyone irritates someone. This is pure Gilbert, who believed the human race was ridiculous by nature. A man condemned to execute himself lists others he wouldn’t miss, concluding by saying that anyone in the audience has as good a list as he does.

          Sure: beheading is part of the context of the character, who is obviously harmless (Ko-Ko is often very small, always costumed to look ridiculous) and his song. I have never heard of anyone taking Ko-Ko’s list as a serious proposal, and remain stunned that anyone could who actually saw and heard the number. Some people have a hard time understanding the Victorian language in G&S, but…wow.

          I appreciate your interest in getting to the bottom of this, Aaron. There is room for a useful and perceptive exposition of how and why this played out the way it has.

  4. Think of it this way; the Missoula conservatives are acting just as bad as the liberals who accused Tea Party-affiliated Republicans of being responsible for the Arizona shooting. Again, the list is definitely meant for mockery, but considering all the politicians and other “acceptable” targets since 1885 that have been placed on it and lived, it’s definitely not any more an incitement to violence than Rush Limbaugh mocking the self-importance of prominent liberals.

    • Julian,

      While a couple of the critics were at a conservative club, it didn’t seem clear that Rory and others who wrote to The Missoulian were conservatives….as for the list: see note above about Palin being the only politico actually on the list. And actually, the first insight I received on the Mikado came from the former Chair of the Montana GOP- who is well familiar with the history. Here’s a thought I shared on Facebook:

      [ I am interested in knowing who else made “the list” in this version of The Mikado in Missoula. If they throw everyone in power in the satire- seems to make sense….oddly enough- they seemed to go after Palin…the arguments I am hearing in support of the show’s director is that Gordon and Sullivan wanted to poke fun at the elites and aristocrats of the day. Oddly enough, it is the elites and the aristocrats who are poking fun at the hockey mom from Alaska. Seems they actually are doing the opposite of what Gilbert and Sullivan’s original intended? ]

      Very interesting discussion Jack- thanks for keeping it going.

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