Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Vas You Der, Charlie? Yes, I was.

Being the youngest child of the youngest child, my family's conversations and jokes often referred to events that happened before my time. There were many references to radio shows of the 1930's. Some of them I was able to listen to, like Fibber McGee and Molly, who had a famous closet full of stuff. Every time Molly went to open the closet, Fibber would say "Oh, no, don't open that door." Maybe it was Molly who said it to Fibber. Doesn't matter. Whoever said it, said it too late and you would hear five minutes of "things falling out of a closet" sound effects. And it got even funnier when you knew it was coming.

But the one I never heard was Jack Pearl as Baron Munchausen. I didn't even know it was Jack Pearl's character until I read it in Where Did I Go Right? by his nephew Bernie Brillstein, who became a Hollywood talent manager and producer. Anyhow, apparently the Baron was based on a real German Baron who had a reputation for exaggerating, so I imagine the radio character also exaggerated, and when anyone doubted his reports, he would say his tag line: Vas You Der, Charlie? That phrase has haunted me and made me skeptical of every report of events I didn't personally witness.

Well, as I posted the other day, I really was there at the ceremony/rally at Rabin Square on Saturday night. My photos came out too dark to publish, and I didn't mention the various flags and banners I saw. I found reports of Bill Clinton's appearance in both The Jerusalem Post and Haaretz. Each paper quoted Bill's remarks a little differently from what I heard. The differences were not substantial, and perhaps my hearing was not perfect either.

Haaretz:
...he would say 'there is enough of all this missing. If you really think I lived a good life, if you think I made a noble sacrifice in death, then for goodness sake take up my work and see it through to the end,'" Clinton said.
Jerusalem Post:
...he would say 'enough with all of this. Live the good life, and for goodness' sake, continue my work.'
The Haaretz quote is closer to what I heard, except I didn't hear "there is" at the beginning of the Rabin hypothetical quote.

Baron, I vas der, and still I wonder what actually was said. The Rashomon effect.

But wait, there's more.

At the rally, I saw a number of orange flags waving about. I took these to be the orange of the anti-disengagement protest, and I assumed the flag-wavers were there to show respect for Rabin's memory and to show the largely left-wing audience that right-wingers could be civilized too, not necessarily violent fanatics like the convicted assassin.

My companion (an avid leftie) didn't see orange flags at all; she said the flags were red, and belonged to some other group. She didn't think any anti-disengagement people would have come to that rally.*

The Jerusalem Report didn't refer to flags, although they may have mentioned banners. Here's what Haaretz said:
The crowds waved Israeli flags, held candles and sang songs of peace.
*Update: Shaister was there too. The photo at the top of his post shows the flags, near the "Shalom" banner on the left. Are they orange or red?

Then I read Don Radlauer's post, commenting on Adloyada's post regarding history and narratives. And I was reminded that even eyewitnesses as well as historians, construct reports that fit their personal narratives. They have to omit something, no matter how accurate they try to be. There is a spectrum from objective to subjective, more complicated than "true" and "false," and in a different dimension from "right" and "wrong" (or even "right" and "left.")

5 comments:

Tan Lucy Pez said...

I remember "Fibber McGee and Molly." Loved it.

Eye Witnesses are the most powerful evidence in trails, but police have long known that eye-witness evidence is very unreliable.

People look at the same scene and see different things. As long as people report the news HONESTLY and aren't trying to alter it, I can live with that. Too often, they are deliberately changing the facts.

Savtadotty said...

TLP - It isn't always the reporters who slant the news: newspaper editors and headline writers can be real villains sometimes. It's hard not to ascribe too much power to the mainstream media.

Tan Lucy Pez said...

Yes, especially here in the U.S. with Bush and his family in charge.

Fred said...

We have something in common. I'm the youngest of the youngest, too. I never really thought about it.

Radio for me was a music thing. I grew up with the legendary WABC-AM radio in NY that defined the top-40 genre. It died in the early 80s when FM had a better sound and most AMs were converting to talk.

I'm also a radio geek. I was even a disk jockey for years. Surprise!

Savtadotty said...

Fred, you grew up in New York? I thought you were a Floridian.