Saturday, January 10, 2004
Jayson Blair & Me
THE JAYSON BLAIR TRANSCRIPT
The following is a transcription of an interview that occurred on a
Wednesday afternoon in late October at a Flatbush Avenue coffeehouse
in Brooklyn, New York. The product of a chance encounter between the
notorious ex-Timesman, Jayson Blair, and the author of a
controversial new play about the Media's role in the ongoing war in
Iraq, first-time playwright - Ron Brynaert.
Prior to the interview, Mr. Brynaert insisted on purchasing a tape
recorder at a nearby Radio Shack. After the interview was concluded
Mr. Blair gave Mr. Brynaert an hour to transcribe the conversation.
As a result, the following may not be word-for-word. It is the
belief of Mr. Brynaert that Mr. Blair is still in possession of the
tape recording and so should be the object of any future scrutinizing
as well as the projection of any conceivable skepticism.
Jayson Blair - So...let's start the interview.
Ron Brynaert - I'm good to go. Let's roll.
JB - Bare with me, it's been a while since I last did this. Tell me
again the title of your play...
RB - "The Rules of Embedment or Why are we back in Iraq?"
JB - Can you explain the title?
RB - The first half alludes to the conditions that all journalists
had to agree to in order to embed with the [cough] Coalition forces
during the spring invasion of Iraq. The latter is a nod to a Norman
Mailer novel entitled 'Why are we in Vietnam?' It was about a
father-and-son-hunting trip in Alaska that served as an allegory for
the Vietnam confli-...war that dealt with big business, patriotic
Americanism, the counter-culture and masculinity.
JB - Why two titles?
RB - Stanley Kubrick is another big influence. It's a reference to
"Dr. Strangelove or how I learned to stop worrying and love the
bomb.' I liked the idea of posing a question and offering an answer
at the same time in the title. It's like a response by a contestant
JB - Then shouldn't it be 'What is the Rules of Embedment?'
RB - I said it was like it was on Jeopardy...metaphorically
speaking...there's no need to be that precise. What's the difference
to you anyway?
JB - There's no need to go there.
RB - I'm sorry if I've misspoken. You can understand I'm under a lot
JB - I hear you. So tell me why you chose to write this play.
RB - Mostly its because of you people.
JB - Excuse me! What did you just say?
RB - No, excuse me. I'm not pulling a Ross Perot. I didn't mean to
imply anything racial. By you people, I meant the Media.
JB - Understood. Although I'm not sure they still qualify as my
RB - You were there when it counted. The Times led the rush to war.
JB - Most people see it differently. That The Times was against the
war and aggressively against George Bush.
RB - Of course, there are a few liberals there - like Frank Rich,
Paul Krugman and Maureen Dowd - who aggressively attacked the
credibility of the litany of pre-war excuses. But the Times' true
guilt lies in printing off-the-record comments by unnamed
Administration officials...as if they were whistle-blowers and in
need of protection. Those off-the-record comments were treated as
news and policy. Countless times on the front page, Judith Miller
wrote about different weapons of mass destruction that Iraq was
alleged to possess without any real proof, evidence or a hint of
disbelief...and so it became a part of the public record. Many of
her sources were exiles from Iraq that hadn't lived there for
decades. She was also one of the last people to correspond with David
Kelly before he [cough] killed himself.
JB - So are you saying The New York Times is part of the vast
RB - No...well...William Safire and Judith Miller are definitely
card-holding members...but no...The Times is firmly centrist rather
than liberal. If they were truly liberal they would have embraced
the antiwar movement, not just local but international. The Times
had a daily war in Iraq section...there should have been a separate
one for dissent. The huge protest in NYC on February 15th that
attracted nearly half a million people was barely even covered.
JB - That's the first scene in your play.
RB - Yes, I think it was a pivotal moment in our history...and it
will be treated as such...there were too many of us....
JB - You were there.
RB - Yes, and many other marches and demonstrations. The New York
Post even ran a picture of me at one rally...under the headline -
JB - Ha!
RB - it took me a while to get the pun...my dream is that The NY Post
prints a picture of me with the head of a weasel.
-TO BE CONTINUED-
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