Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Was Hitler Really a Meth-Addict? - Stepping Out on 'The Gray Lady'

A young Hitler next to a photo of a Fuhrer-like cat (Photo - Atlas/London Media)
Confession: I've been cheating on my lady with an old flame since last month.

The media furor that erupted last month over New York Times critic Alessandra Stanley's article calling show runner/writer & producer Shonda Rhimes an "angry black woman" sparked a slew of well-written op-eds, articles and insightful reader responses.

The remarkably misogynistic tone of Stanley's piece and the casual reinforcement of ignorant racial stereotypes made me step back and take another look at the New York Times; and do some critical thinking about the make-up of their editorial staff, reporters and the content they produce.

The Time's response to the uproar was so tone-deaf and lackluster, I decided to divorce myself from "The Gray Lady" for awhile and select some other news outlets to "get my news on".

While I miss her, it led me back to an old flame: The Washington Post. Having grown up in Bethesda, Maryland, the Post was on our doorstep every morning (delivered by a neighbor's son from across the street who was a good friend of mine) and spread out about the house throughout the week.

I can still smell that combination of ink and paper. In the pre-cable days of the 1970's and early 80's in the suburban Washington area, the Post's weekly television guide was a highly-coveted and indispensable section of the fat Sunday edition of the Post in our house.

While the Post initially lagged behind the NY Times in developing a strong online presence during the digital transformation, these days the layout and functionality of the WaPo Website is much improved from just a few years ago and with Amazon co-founder Jeff Bezos on board as the new owner, the online content and experience is bound to get better with time.

Now I'm something of a history buff; I'm currently slogging my way through "The 900 Days: The Siege of Leningrad", author Harrison Salisbury's 635-page meticulously-researched and exhaustive analysis of the three-year siege of the Russian city of Leningrad by the Germans starting in 1941 that eventually led to the deaths of some 632,000 Russians - including 4,000 from starvation and cold on Christmas Day 1941. Salisbury was also a long-time editor at the New York Times.

So when I visited the Washington Post's Website after work today to scan the headlines, the eye-opening title of Ishaan Tharoor's article, "High Hitler: Nazi Leader Was a Meth Addict" immediately caught my attention.

According to the WaPo article as well as a piece in The Independent, a new documentary on the UK's Channel 4 airing this weekend, "Hitler's Hidden Drug Habit", the Fuhrer had a quite a drug habit.

Including Pervitin pills containing meth-amphetamine (crystal meth), a barbiturate called Brom-Nervacit, and also morphine - three of the cocktail of 74 different drugs he took according to details from a 47-page American intelligence document.

At first glance such an article might seem gimmicky; after all I did capture the above photo of a young Hitler next to a cat that looks suspiciously like him from an article in Rupert Murdoch's The Sun (UK) entitled (wait for it...), "Mein Furrer" (really) about cats that look like Hitler, but I won't be posting a link to that tabloid jewel of the Murdoch empire. Even I have standards.

Some might consider an article about Hitler's drug use irrelevant given the current Ebola virus, the state of affairs in Syria and Iraq and the ongoing economic stagnation affecting the 99% in this country. But I think the insanity gripping this world (Boko Haram kidnapping school girls?) demands that we step back and reexamine history.

Plus, given renewed interest in the fascinating story "Is Paris Burning?", the book and 1966 film detailing Hitler's efforts to have his army completely destroy the city of Paris before the allied invasion could reach it (Salisbury's book "The 900 Days" also details how Hitler insisted his generals completely level the city of Leningrad as well), a better understanding of how extensively Hitler's mind may have been warped by his drug addiction may help historians gain new insight into the horrific loss of life and catastrophic destruction of World War II.

Maybe someone should drug-test Syrian leader Bashar al-Asaad? And Putin too while they're at it.

Perhaps a better understanding of the horrors of that war may help the world find ways to avoid slipping into another one in the mid-east.

I'll always love the NY Times. It's exceptional journalistic analysis, expansive coverage and insight have helped to expand my intellectual understanding of the world. But their handling of the Alessandra Stanley article (and the fact that they actually printed it) makes me and many others wonder if the editorial board may have gotten just a bit too cozy up on the pedestal.

Perhaps "The Gray Lady" has become a bit too gray. I'll come back to visit her for Paul Krugman and Maureen Dowd but for now, I'm giving The Washington Post another chance; especially with the critical November elections coming up and the Nation's Capital once again preparing to take center stage.

Plus I've got a daily friends-with-benefits thing going on with the BBC and NPR too, so I won't lack for company or excellent content. Please don't tell the Gray Lady; she assumed we were exclusive.  

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