October 22, 2004

Clarity First, Then Weekend Links

BEFORE I LINK TO some recommended reading for leisurely contemplation over the weekend, let me direct your attention to a comment a reader named Joseph wrote in response to yesterday’s post, “Slowly Slowly the Giant Awakens.” Joseph accuses me of “underlying rabid hostility...especially towards women” and then asks how long I have been beating my wife – no, actually, have I “always been such an angry person?” I answered at length, not because his accusation drew any blood (it did not), but because as a journalist one of my greatest concerns is always the possibility I might be misunderstood – not because of any alleged limitation on the part of my readers, but because I myself have somehow failed to state my facts or opinions with sufficient clarity.

In the best of my newspapering days, there were always good desk editors – on a couple of the dailies for which I worked, some of the best editors in the business – to purge my copy of any muddled statements. The process was not always painless, but I nevertheless depended on it to make my stories that much stronger. Indeed it was backstopping by skilled and seasoned editors – a group ever more notably absent from journalism today – that allowed reporters and re-write men to work confidently at the break-neck pace so essential on the dailies of yesteryear – papers that published four, five or nine editions every day.

Blogging is of course entirely different. There is minimal time pressure – nothing like the old Tuesday-Saturday routine of the One-Star deadline at midnight, the two-star Mail Edition and the three-star State Edition deadline at 1:30, the four-star Home at 2 a.m. and the five-star Final at 3 – though blogging is pressured enough if one seeks to live a reasonably full life away from keyboard and VDT and also takes the required hours to search the Internet for material to post daily. But the most difficult difference is the fact we bloggers are all our own editors, which – if we care about our craft – makes us each the worst sort of self-inflicted tyrant and, occasionally (and always in retrospect), the most verbally inept dunce. So any time I get an email like Joseph’s, it triggers my dunce-cap fears, which trips my tyranny switch and leaves me wondering what I need to do to make my writing better, clearer, less misunderstood.

Here then is the key passage of my reply:

As much as I deplore feminism, I do not make the common error of assuming that feminists speak for all womankind. Thus I reserve the right to damn feminism specifically for its implicit tyranny and subversive intent, and assuredly not as a generalization about womanhood or femaleness. Most readers, I think, understand this distinction. Hence it is typically only feminists and their supporters who (falsely) accuse me of misogynism.

In this context, note my wholehearted praise of Annie Jacobsen and Michelle Malkin in "Two Good Writers, Two Must Reads." Last I heard, the courageous Ms. Jacobsen and the eloquent Ms. Malkin were both of the gender toward which you seem to feel I bear "underlying rabid hostility."

The duration of my anger? It dates precisely from the Muslim outrages of September 11, 2001, which I witnessed that awful morning on live TV. My anger is probably intensified by the fact I am a born New Yorker -- lived in the City until age 3, raised two-thirds in the South, one-third in Michigan, lived in Manhattan (by choice) for nine years as an adult. Beyond my reaction to the atrocities of 9/11, a sense of rightful indignation at injustice has always animated my best (and sometimes award-winning) journalism...

For the rest of it, click on “comments” under “Slowly Slowly...” I would add only that I should also have mentioned as praiseworthy the reporter Evelyn Nieves, the woman who wrote the superbly revealing Washington Post piece on life at the Pine Ridge reservation.

Now onto the promised links:

Two of these come from Asia Times, which practices a kind of in-depth journalism that is increasingly absent from the United States – an absence I believe is a major factor in the increasing shallowness (and ever-more-distracting sloganism) of our political debates. The first, here, is to Page One of the newspaper itself, an interesting window on the opinions of a region increasingly obscured by our election hurly-burly. The second link is to another piece by my favorite Asia Times columnist, a writer who goes by the name of Spengler: he argues here that despite Bush’s penchant for bungling, his willingness to fight is far preferable to Kerry’s penchant for appeasement.

The third weekend link – an implicit challenge to Google the subject further – is a short but pointed exposition on the economically ruinous impact Kyoto would have on the United States (and indeed on all major industrialized nations). It is a USA Today piece – something you will seldom see in this space because of my deep disdain for the offensive superficiality of that publication and Gannett papers in general – but in this case Gannett provides the best summation of the Kyoto facts I have seen in quite a while. It is therefore a vital tool for contrasting the Bush and Kerry positions and is available here.

Have a good weekend, one and all.

Posted by Loren at October 22, 2004 05:26 AM