Sunday, July 04, 2004

The Liberal Media

I've always been the first to complain about the New York Times Book Review's editorial policy of encouraging cuddly, anodyne, judgement-free criticism. But in the past three weeks I've seen two worthy books get savaged by morons and it's really ticked me off.

A couple weeks ago, Josh Chafetz took down Thomas Frank's new book, "What's the Matter with Kansas." And in yesterday's section, Richard Brookhiser took a leak all over Hendrik Hertzberg's collection of essays, "Politics: Observations and Arguments."

I've read and admired Frank's book, and although I haven't read Hertzberg's collection yet, I've read enough of his columns for the New Yorker to know his book deserved more than the hatchet job it received in the Times. Worse, this was a hack hatchet job. It is one thing to let an obvious ideological opposite review someone's book--even one by a writer as estimable and honorable as Hertzberg--but another to be so editorially lax as to not require said critic to make some kind of caveat, some fair warning about where they're coming from. (Brookhiser is ID'd by the vague title of one of his books; it isn't mentioned that he's a Senior Editor at National Review). Brookhiser's judgement is summary, resolute; he doesn't appear to be intimidated by the fact that Hertzberg can write and think circles around him, because from his safe perch as a contributor to the Book Review he can be as selective as he wants in describing Hertzberg's book. Really, Brookhiser's argument, such as it is, hinges on one measly sentence from the whole of Hertzberg's book. If you've never read Hertzberg before, you'd have no idea that he is one of the two or three most eloquent, reasonable, and fundamentally decent of all liberal commentators. Even an enemy should be able to acknowledge this; a decent person might even feel compelled to.

The less said about the Chafetz piece the better. He'd have us consider Frank the Ann Coulter of the left. Last week I think Ted Rall was the Ann Coulter of the left. (Where would conservative bloggers and commentators like Chafetz and Andrew Sullivan be without good old, reliably stupid Ted Rall to offer up as a 'representative' example of left-wing inanity?) If we're moving in that direction, soon enough we're going to have to find some liberal Republicans to peg as the new Ann Coulter of the left.

Neither review bothers to argue substantively with the content of the books under discussion. Isn't there a word for that? Oh yeah: shit criticism. And isn't there a word for an editorial staff that allows shit criticism to grace its--incredibly influential, book-sale making-and-breaking--pages? Oh yeah: yellow-bellied journalism.

The New York Times needs to stop cowering and catering to its right-wing critics. Do its editors really think this charge will ever go away? Do they think these people will ever shut up? Then the editors must be dumber than I thought.

I won't even mention Michiko's insipid review of Bill Clinton's memoir....except to say that there is no writer alive who so proudly brandishes received ideas as their own freshly-minted insights. Ugh.


Blogger Hurricane James said...


You are exactly right, no matter how far the NYTimes lurches to the right in order to pacify its critics, they will never be satisfied. Soon maybe Ann Coulter will be the Ann Coulter of the left. And don't even get me started on Bitchiko.

July 6, 2004 at 2:51 PM  
Blogger Hurricane James said...

Where did my comment go? I was just saying how you are totally right about the idiocy of the NYTimes and its ill-conceived logic that by adding another David Brooks to the op-ed page or letting right-wing hacks take on liberal authors, conservatives will be placated. Movement conservatives won't be satisfied until Ann Coulter becomes the Ann Coulter of the left. And don't even get me started about Bitchiko...

July 7, 2004 at 3:15 PM  
Blogger Hurricane James said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

July 7, 2004 at 3:16 PM  

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