By Dan Kennedy • The press, politics, technology, culture and other passions

Recycling at a place called HuffPost

An appalled Boston Globe staffer alerted me yesterday to Mike Barnicle’s debut on the Huffington Post. “Who’s next, Jayson Blair?” my correspondent asked.

I read it, and the familiar hackery took me back many years, when we all read a columnist called Barnicle in a paper called the Globe in a city called Boston in a country called America. Barnicle’s conceit is an old one for him: Some guy died in a place called Vietnam 40 years ago, and, damn it, Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton don’t even know who he was. But Mike Barnicle does.

Not to denigrate the memory of the soldier who died, Francis Xavier Kane. But Barnicle’s been writing this column since at least the 1980s. In Barnicle’s hands, these maudlin exercises invariably involve the use of the phrase “a place called,” an attempt to imbue his sentimental ramblings with a Hemingwayesque touch of manful dignity. For instance, in his HuffPost piece, Barnicle informs us that young Francis Kane met his end “a few miles west of a lethal place called Quang Tri City in a country called Vietnam.”

As I said, Barnicle has written this column many, many times over the years. What follows is a sampling. Believe me, it didn’t take long to put this together.

“He was killed in a firefight exactly two years ago at a place named Tuwayhah in a country called Iraq. He was 25.” (Boston Herald, April 14, 2005)

“All the simple things people take for granted disappeared for Peter Damon in the flash of an explosion early one morning last fall in a place called Camp Anaconda located in Balad, Iraq, north of Baghdad.” (Boston Herald, March 9, 2004)

“Lucas is 67, McCarthy is 83 and both hold the Medal of Honor, awarded for what they did on two different days of February 1945 at a place called Iwo Jima.” (Boston Globe, Oct. 26, 1995)

“He was south of Hue City, Vietnam, with the 9th Marines, in a place called Phu Bai.” (Boston Globe, Sept. 30, 1990)

“… a place called the Gulf of Tonkin during the summer of 1964.” (Boston Globe, Aug. 21, 1990)

“On Sept. 17, 1966 — two days before his 19th birthday — he found himself in a place called Cu Chi, which is about 15 miles west of Saigon, Republic of South Vietnam.” (March 11, 1990)

“His last name was Gonzalez and as he lay dying at 18 near a place called Con Thien in the Republic of South Vietnam nearly a quarter century ago.” (Boston Globe, April 25, 1989)

“… he has only one leg, the other having been blown off just over 20 years ago at a place called My Tho, a very pretty town on the Bassac River in the Mekong Delta …” (Boston Globe, Nov. 12, 1988)

“… almost exactly to this day, my friend Tommy Gill, then with the 3d Marines, nearly lost his life to gunfire at a place called Con Thien where fighting was fierce and constant.” (Boston Globe, Feb. 12, 1988)

“He was killed at a place called The Parrot’s Beak, fighting the communist army from Hanoi.” (Boston Globe, March 30, 1987)

“Wake me up and tell me no mother’s son ever died in a place called Vietnam.” (Boston Globe, Dec. 30, 1985)

“… two decades since other Marines, elements of the Ninth Division, walked ashore about three miles south of a place called DaNang …” (Boston Globe, April 26, 1985)

“His name was Anh Mai and he had come to the United States of America in 1979 from a place called Saigon in a country called Vietnam.” (April 15, 1985)

“The soldiers were fed three times in the nine days before the survivors emerged at a place called Stalag 3B near Frankfurt.” (Dec. 17, 1984)

“It is a letter, a letter written on Memorial Day of that year from a place called Khe Sanh in a country called Vietnam.” (Boston Globe, May 30, 1983)

“All of them came back except for Frankie Viola who caught a bullet on March 3, 1945, at a place called ‘Sulpher Island,’ known in history as Iwo Jima.” (Boston Globe, May 14, 1982)

“… razor blades spilled out of his mouth as he lectured those outside a Senate hearing room about the growing troubles in a place called El Salvador.” (Boston Globe, March 6, 1981)

“God is dead on the cover of Time magazine. Your son is dead in a place called Chu Lai. Who killed him, anyway?” (Boston Globe, Dec. 10, 1980)

“He hated the war. He was of the First Marines, India Company, Third Battalion, fought in a place called Quang Tri province, Vietnam and hated it.” (Boston Globe, Sept. 10, 1980)

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  1. mike_b1

    Wow, with all that repetition, I felt like I was reading Shaughnessy there.

  2. Anonymous

    If you plagiarize from your own work is it still considered plagiarism?

  3. Anonymous

    Anon. 10:31 – Yes.

  4. Anonymous

    This is so disgusting. What is Barnicle doing on HuffPo? Guys, if they make any more noise about hiring him at WBUR, we must mobilize and speak for those who cannot speak for fear of losing their jobs.

  5. Anonymous

    Gee, was Barnacle the guy who invented “content repurposing”? 🙂

  6. Anonymous

    And all Barnicle’s idiocy is revealed today in a place called the Internet. Excellent work.

  7. DD

    Dan:If only you would get off Barnicle’s case and let him make his comeback, we would have a reason to keep writing Barnicle parodies.A google search for “Mack Binnacle Loose Threads” will take you to what I hope you agree is a good one.or…this link: the road, we could assemble a list of the Top 10 Fake Barnicle columns. It could include some of his own!

  8. Anonymous

    As irritating as Barnicle is, he is deep compared to the brain-dead bimbos on Boston TV who feel the need to start EVERY sentence with the word “now” for no particular reason other than to avoid actual thought. Every time I hear “now”, I realize they have no clue about what is coming out of their mouths. How stupid are you if Channel 7 is over your head?

  9. Dan Kennedy

    Anon 11:30: I have always assumed that “now” is something local-newscast consultants have told them to say at every opportunity. People don’t really talk that way. I should ask.

  10. JeffMediaTake:

    As I understand it, “now” is the alternate for the even more frequently abused “breaking news,” and is used to emphasize the “live-ness” of the newscast (such as it is). Same as when Regis or whomever holds up that morning’s newspaper. That’s how it works in a place called television in a country called America. Now.

  11. Anonymous

    Plagiarism or overuse of a literary device? Lighten up, Dan. Yes, you claim to have brought down Barnicle. He may be a hack, a lazy writer, or something more horrifying to you. But he’s just one of many journalists/writers who coast on the same schticks or their reputations. However hackneyed his writing, Barnicle is still a darling of people like Imus and the Boston establishment who fill the luxury boxes each Red Sox Opening Day. Does this keep you up at night?

  12. Anonymous

    Where oh where does one begin when it comes to the caricature that is Mike Barnicle? He has the gall to be critical of Hillary Clinton’s war vote? Barnicle clearly supported it before things got messy.Glen BergendahlWeymouth

  13. Peter Porcupine

    DK – let me NEVER be on your bad side!Actually, I use the word ‘actually’ too often….

  14. Dan Kennedy

    Plagiarism or overuse of a literary device?Overuse of a literary device, obviously. Why did you bring up the P-word? Am I hitting too close to home?

  15. anon 11:30

    For the record, Joe Sciacca has done an admirable job of banishing the distracting “ya know” from his speech. (An evening at “Toastmasters” did the same for me, years ago.) Joe is a smart guy and it shows, more than can be said of some talking heads on local TV. Now can we get to Channel 7’s “Alliteration for no particular purpose”? Aargh!

  16. Anonymous

    How appropriate, on Earth Day, to remember the master recycler. I recall reading Barnicle in his “prime” and marveling at how he got away with reworking the same tired crap. A favorite technique was his “dumb as” construct. I did a quick search and came up with these quotes from Barnicle’s Globe column:• dumb as a rake (re Tom Finnerty, 19 January 1989)• dumb as a doorknob (generic reference, 9 May 1989)• dumb as a bowl of ziti (re Mafia gangsters, 29 March 1990)• dumb as a doorknob (re Red Sox player Mike Greenwell, 4 June 1991)• dumb as door posts (re politicians, 5 January 1993)• dumb as doorknobs (re public school students, 26 November 1996)• dumb as a stone (generic reference, 10 May 1998)-Jack B.

  17. Anonymous

    Barnicle may be a hack, but in a media would filled with hacks and worse, I don’t quite get the level of venom that is always directed at him. I probably wouldn’t want to hear him on BUR either, but I’d take him back on TKK anyday, if it meant I didn’t have to endure Michael Graham.

  18. Anonymous

    The problem with Mike is that he just will not go away. The longer he hangs around on the Internet, cable TV or the radio, the worse his reputation becomes in our collective memory. Sooner rather than later, all that was good in his writing will have been purged and replaced with the modern dreck. It can’t be the money, it must be the ego … Mike, just let it go and fade to black. Play golf with Bob Lobel, hang out with the retired local pols and cops, discover the joy of model trains, just leave the stage.

  19. Anonymous

    The tragedy is that Mike Barnicle has the ability to write remarkable prose that really draws the reader in, any yet he has been so lazy for so long. Because of his relationships with influential opinion and newsmakers, he was allowed to crawl out from under the rock of disgrace he was shoved under in 1998. Now, 10 years later he has written for the Herald, the NY Daily News, had a radio show, appears on MSNBC, and now the Huff Post. And what does he do? He continually rehashes the same material he did at the Globe. Mike Barnicle frequently brings up his Irish Catholicism and how much it has meant to him, well Mike should look back at his slothful work, his gluttony for feeding at the cable news trough when he is woefully inadequate, and his lust for being relevant and in the public eye. It is time for him to do us all a favor and retire watching baseball with his corporate benefactors. Sorry to sound so angry, but his hackery is such a waste of talent that many of us can only wish to have.

  20. Anonymous

    Graham actually admitted being a political operative (and got paid for doing stand up comedy). Barnicle parlayed an elevator operator’s job in DC and a homicide-detective brother into a job, avoidance of legwork and more surreptitious politicking. Graham may be a conservative but he’s a funny one. Barnicle is as funny as a rubber crutch.

  21. Beaker

    The funniest part to me is that Barnicle has made a lot of noise the last few years (mainly on his former radio show) about the scourge of “bloggers”. He and Dan Shaughnessy sitting around like Statler and Waldorf lamenting the woes of the new Internet age. And then Mike goes and recycles his crap on…a website!! Not the first time he’s done something astoundingly hypocritical, and it won’t be the last.

  22. Anonymous

    Okay, now do a search for “it says here that…” with Herald bloviator Joe Fitzgerald.

  23. Dan Kennedy

    Anon 7:46: Wow. That would be off the charts!

  24. Tony

    This is such a brilliant sentence: In Barnicle’s hands, these maudlin exercises invariably involve the use of the phrase “a place called,” an attempt to imbue his sentimental ramblings with a Hemingwayesque touch of manful dignity.

  25. Liam St. Liam

    It boggle my mind that people compare Mike Barnicle with Jayson Blair.Blair was a liar and a cheat and an embarrassment to journalism.Mike Barnicle was one of the greatest reads in any Boston newspaper. Howie Carr comes close, but he’ll never top Barnicle.Everything is too milke and whitebread now.Yes, there are people who think this way.

  26. Anonymous

    Have you written ”Mike Barnicle” more than Mike Barnicle has written ”a place called (insert place) in a country called (insert country)”?

  27. io saturnalia

    You guys are too hard on Barnicle, a true innovator. It took years for his shtick to be reincarnated as “Bart’s People.”

  28. Anonymous

    Liam -Blair was also black.

  29. Bill Weye

    That’s f#%king funny!!Lexis-Nexis search query:author: barnicle; pub: boston globe; phrase: “place called”I love it, Dan!!

  30. pk

    Barnicle plagiarized his whole schtick from Mike Royko. Having grown up in Chicago, I did a double-take, figuratively speaking, the first time I read a Barnicle column. Southie’s man-on-the-street from Lincoln. Give me a break.

  31. Dan Kennedy

    PK: I don’t have the exact quote handy, but Royko once complained to the Washington Post that the Globe used his column as a “tip sheet” for Barnicle, and he cited several specific columns that Barnicle had loosely rewritten.

  32. Anonymous

    I couldn’t resist researching another of Mikey’s favorite literary devices: those clever “IQ” put-downs. Here’s just a few of the dozens he published:• (his) IQ equals the mean temperature of St. Petersburg, Fla. (re Ronald Reagan, 2 March 1987)• an IQ three below par (re Dan Quayle, 11 September 1988)• the IQ of a cruller (re Dan Quayle, 6 November 1988)• the IQ of a barbell (re state employees, 14 March 1989)• wear(s) his IQ number on his uniform (re Roger Clemens, 13 April 1989)• an IQ that equals the number on a linebacker’s jersey (re Frank Salemme, 22 June 1989)• the IQ of a meatloaf sandwich (re unnamed state rep, 29 June 1989)• the collective IQ of an automatic elevator (re state reps, 5 December 1989)• wanted to wear his IQ on his back (re Roger Clemens, 8 April 1990)• the IQ of a sitting vice president of the United States (Quayle again, 23 January 1990)• waist sizes match their IQ (re Donald Trump’s girlfriends, 18 February 1990)• an IQ barely above freezing (re Mafia gangsters, 29 March 1990) • a room temperature IQ (generic reference, 10 July 1990)• the IQ of a mothball (re military critics, 7 February 1991)• match his [golf] score to his IQ (re Gerald Ford, 26 May 1991)• the IQ of a street lamp (re store detectives, 18 June 1991) • IQ … 250 points lower than Wade Boggs’ lifetime batting average (re Roger Clemens, 1 March 1992)• a room-temperature IQ (generic reference, 15 October 1992)• the IQ of a table lamp (re Britain’s Royal Family, 26 November 1992)• [their] combined IQ never reaches yesterday’s high temperature in International Falls, Minnesota (re the state legislature, 12 January 1993)• has a waist size greater than his IQ (re John Locke, 26 April 1994)• a room-temperature IQ (unnamed juvenile, 12 May 1994)-Jack B.

  33. Liam St. Liam

    Dear Anonymous:It’s common knowledge that Blair was Black.That has nothing to do with anything.What he did was far more wrong ethically — and legally — than anything Barnicle ever did.

  34. Jay Rosen

    Dan: Every local television news story must, on the 6 pm or 11 pm newscasts, include the word “tonight.” Yes, it’s a conceit: that all this is happening now. Yes, they really teach their people that. No, they don’t know why they do it, they just do it.

  35. Anonymous

    Liam -I’ll try to remember that race is irrelevant the next time I see Particia Smith or Mr. Blair on network TV or read their work in newspapers and on prominent websites.I’ll also remember all of those whiny ‘woe-is-me, I’m-an-Irish-Catholic, hear-me-cry-in-my-beer’ remarks Barnicle makes whenever the going gets tough.He certainly knows his audience.

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