Couric Lobs 11 Softballs for Feminist Reporter on Blog Interview

October 8th, 2007 3:12 PM

Writing at her "Couric & Co." blog this morning, CBS's Katie Couric gave journalist/feminist polemicist Susan Faludi a platform to flesh out her theory that the mainstream media have harnessed fears of terrorism post-9/11 to socially repress women and resurrect myths of the Old West. Here, for example, is Faludi's response to Couric's question about why Faludi penned her latest book:

After 9/11, as the weeks and months and then a year passed, it was as if we’d fallen into this fever dream where political leaders were spouting all this vigilante cowboy rhetoric. “Shoot ‘em between the eyes.” “Smoke ‘em out of their holes.” It was a return to this John Wayne masculinity, to our Indian wars.

And then on the feminine side of the equation, there were all these trend stories, that 9/11 would bring on a marriage boom, a baby boom, even that feminism had come to be deep-sixed.

So I set out to try and understand why, when symbols of our military and commercial establishments had been attacked, why was there all this focus on home and hearth?

Rather than take the occasion to ask her subject if she's reading too much into inventive media storylines or if her book may be a cynical way of profiting from 9/11, Couric's entire interview was marked by softball open-ended questions that Faludi promptly slammed out of the park to plug her book.

What's more, introducing her interview subject, Couric began noting Faludi's accolades, which of course only bolster the case that she's far from a centrist or balanced journalist:

Susan Faludi, the Pulitzer Prize winning journalist who burst on the scene in 1991 with her thoughtful and provocative “Backlash: The Undeclared War Against American Women,” has a new book out: “The Terror Dream: Fear and Fantasy in Post 9/11 America.”

It examines America’s psychological response to the attacks and finds lots of answers in our Wild West frontier myths. So we caught up with her by phone last week, and posed our 10 (well, OK, 11) Questions to her

Below are the agenda of questions. For Faludi's answers, check out the full interview:

  1. You open “The Terror Dream” with a dream, a nightmare, you had the morning of 9/11…
  2. What prompted you to write this book?
  3. And what did you find?
  4. The title of your book comes from a novel about the frontier...
  5. And this isn't always the way our country has reacted?
  6. What happened instead, what went wrong?
  7. Which was?
  8. You write in your book about a phone call you received from a reporter the morning of the attack: “After a couple of vague questions about what this tragedy would ‘mean to our social fabric,’ he answered his own question with, given the morning’s events, a bizarrely gleeful tone: ‘Well, this sure pushes feminism off the map.’” How did you react to that? And six years later, what did 9/11 do to feminism?
  9. You have one chapter titled “Precious Little Jessi,” about Jessica Lynch, the 19-year-old soldier whose company was ambushed in April 2003. Eleven in her company died, five were taken hostage, and Lynch was injured and spent nine days in an Iraqi hospital. A dramatic midnight rescue by American troops followed, a scenario straight out of Hollywood. Later it turned out the details were different. You devote a whole chapter to her story, and she comes up frequently elsewhere in “Terror Dream.” Why?
  10. You write that we live at a moment of great possibility. What is it? What should we do?
  11. Speaking of elections, we wanted to ask you about Hillary Clinton’s candidacy…

For vintage Faludi bias, check out this MRC CyberAlert item from 1999:

"Contributing editor" Susan Faludi told Newsweek readers that psycho killers like Atlanta's Mark Barton are just products of a "computerized, consumerized, celebritized" capitalist culture that lets men down. The subheadline read: "Only a few deranged men go on shooting sprees, but many feel cheated that 'the system' has let them down. And, in some powerful ways, it has."

In 1991, former Wall Street Journal reporter Faludi wrote Backlash, a feminist tract that complained "the increasingly reinforced fortress of an antifeminist culture daunted women more than it galvanized them." Now, apparently, Faludi has decided it's men's turn to be victimized by the culture. Faludi quoted from Barton's suicide note, and declared: "More and more, the American community fails to offer its postwar sons and grandsons what it used to offer all men: a chance to ground their manhood on utility, dedication and loyalty, whether as a GI serving a nation and caring for his fellow grunts or as a civilian plying a craft essential to his society. For all the grim aspects of industrial labor and World War II-era sacrifice, men could at least feel they belonged to a meaningful brotherhood and provided a utility beyond mere earning power."

She continued: "But the heirs of the GI generation increasingly find themselves stranded in a different world: computerized, consumerized, celebritized. In an ornamental culture where worth is measured by bicep and SUV size, by image and celebrity, men feel severed from fellowship and a tangible craft, valued only for their stock-market portfolios. In that way, Mark Barton was the garish distillation of the modern male predicament -- a Dockers-and-polo-shirted figure seated alone in his suburban home, wired to the Internet so many hours a day that no one else could make a phone call. Meanwhile, his ignored children roamed the streets. Even as men have been freed (thanks largely to the women's movement) to be more involved fathers, their progress is undermined by a sweepstakes culture where only the biggest winner is valued."

Newsweek touted Faludi as author of the forthcoming Stiffed: The Betrayal of the American Man, to be published in September.