So Katha Politt unleashed a broadside last week, taking the New York Times to task for daring to replace Kristol with another conservative columnist. She also criticized Ross Douthat’s liberal admirers, many of whom had the temerity to publicly applaud his selection. A few quick thoughts:
- It’s a bit dishonest of Politt to not only not provide links to the articles/blog posts she’s criticizing, but to include one excerpt from an old college op-ed.
- Several of the blog posts Politt criticizes – on female orgasms, masturbation, gay sheep etc. – strike me as examples of the sort of unformed meandering that makes the blogosphere so interesting. Some of this stuff is stupid; some provocative; some completely pointless, but I don’t think the same rigorous standards of appraisal one might apply to, say, widely-published op-eds should be used to assess old blog entries.
- I was a bit disappointed by the reaction of two liberal commentators I respect and admire – Matt Yglesias and Ta-Nehisi Coates – to Politt’s criticism. Aside from the value of sparring with a sharp adversary or filling the Times’ mandatory “conservative columnist” slot with a halfway decent writer, isn’t there something to be said for elevating a thoughtful, persuasive advocate of the other side because he might be right? One of the things that really irked me about the Politt column – and, to a lesser extent, other liberal responses – was her absolute certainty that she has nothing to learn from intelligent conservatism. Maybe this is a product of my own intellectual insecurities, but one of the reasons I enjoy reading intelligent liberal outlets is because they may be right, and moreover I’m willing to be persuaded. I wish Politt was similarly inclined.
Note: I’d comment on more weighty matters (the bank stabilization plan), but right now I’m a bit overwhelmed by the scale of the economic crisis. Arguing over the merits of the New York Times’ latest columnist seems trivial in comparison, but at least it’s something I can discuss competently.