Monday, June 30, 2008

Reason #2398 the press bothers me

A week or so ago, the public editor to the Times offered a well-deserved rebuke of (civilization ruining) Maureen Dowd, for her unfair treatment of Hillary Clinton. Unfortunately, that did not mean that Dowd would be relegated to her proper place in the press world, which would mean that her writing would be filling the pages of Maxim, People or Glamour.

Not to fear, however, as intrepid colleague-Gail Collins- publicly rushes to Dowd's defense:

As a Times columnist, I never envisioned myself writing a letter to a fellow resident of the paper’s opinion section. But I feel compelled to respond to your assault on Maureen Dowd.

Your complaint about Maureen seems to be that many supporters of Hillary Clinton found her columns offensive. As a former editorial page editor, I can absolutely assure you that supporters of many, many candidates from both parties have found Maureen’s columns offensive over the years.

The sharpness of her wit makes her commentary particularly painful to those who are on the receiving end. That’s also why so many readers love her and exactly what The New York Times pays her to do.

When the public editor laces into an opinion page columnist for making fun of a controversial political figure, it sounds like a suggestion that all of us tone things down. I hope I’m hearing wrong.

What I think this shows is two things. The first is the mindlessness with which members of the pundit class view criticism. They have one metric- are people from both sides angry? This is just stupid. Rather than splitting it down the middle, writers like Dowd would be far better served to take a look at the nature of the criticism. The complaint from the left is not that she skewers too sharply, it is that her view on the political stage is written for a grade school audience.

The second is that this episode shows quite clearly, that the pundit class doesn't do introspection. The problem is NEVER them.

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