Sunday, October 10, 2004

The New York Times reaches a new journalistic low. Really.

You have to read this piece over at Eschaton, which describes how NYT ombudsman and general fuckwad Daniel Okrent (you know, the guy who's supposed to be representing the readers of the paper) took a private e-mail sent to NYT colleague (and fellow fuckwad) Adam Nagourney, and chastised it publicly

At the bottom of Okrent's typical self-stroking swill, we read:

But before I turn over the podium, I do want you to know just how debased the level of discourse has become. When a reporter receives an e-mail message that says, "I hope your kid gets his head blown off in a Republican war," a limit has been passed.

That's what a coward named Steve Schwenk, from San Francisco, wrote to national political correspondent Adam Nagourney several days ago because Nagourney wrote something Schwenk considered (if such a person is capable of consideration) pro-Bush. Some women reporters regularly receive sexual insults and threats. As nasty as critics on the right can get (plenty nasty), the left seems to be winning the vileness derby this year. Maybe the bloggers who encourage their readers to send this sort of thing to The Times might want to ask them instead to say it in public. I don't think they'd dare.

So despite the fact that Okrent, the paper's ombudsman, is supposed to be representing the readers, he sees no problem in taking a private communication to someone else at the paper, and violating the letter writer's privacy in his column.

It's amusing to read how Okrent thinks that this represents a new low in discourse. From the excerpt of the e-mail, Schwenk isn't threatening Nagourney as far as I can tell. Rather, he seems to be making a pretty direct and potent criticism of Nagourney, who is just one of those hypocritical chickenhawk pro-Bush journalists who thinks the invasion of Iraq has always been just peachy keen, as long as it's someone else that's doing the sacrificing, fighting and dying.

And a new low in the level of discourse? Okrent has some rather odd ideas of what constitutes debased discourse. Apparently, he's not overly concerned about the vile utterings of right-wing screech harpy Ann Coulter, when she accuses the entire political left of treason. Apparently, it doesn't bother him when high-profile conservatives publicly say things like:
  • "Get rid of [Clinton]. Impeach him, censure him, assassinate him." (Rep. Janes Hansen, R - Utah, 1998)
  • "We're going to keep building the party until we're hunting Democrats with dogs." (Sen. Phil Gramm, R - Texas, 1995)
  • "I tell people don't kill all the liberals. Leave enough so can have two on every campus -- living fossils -- so we will never forget what these people stood for." (Rush Limbaugh, Denver Post, 1995).
And then there's a delicious sampling of compassionate conservatism here. Go ahead. Read. Enjoy the discourse of the right wing. And, of course, there is the latest Republican talking point of how a vote for Kerry is a vote for terrorism. Tasty stuff, the lot of it.

Apparently, however, none of the above bothers Okrent, who thinks a new low in political discourse is attained by a private e-mail from a pissed off reader to a journalist. Go figure.

Now, what do I personally think of Schwenk's note? Personally, I really don't care one way or the other. It's none of my business what passes as private e-mail between two consenting adults. If Nagourney is too much of a cry-baby to handle criticism, he should find another job.

But what's appalling is Okrent's hanging Schwenk out in public for that private e-mail. Let's be clear. This has nothing to do with the level of discourse. It has everything to do with the NYT giving a warning to anyone who might be unhappy with their wretched journalism these days -- that warning being: don't complain and don't criticize, even privately, or we'll do our best to humiliate you in front of the world.

And if this offends you, you might want to drop a note to the Times at and let them know what you think. But if I were you, I'd be careful what I write. If you know what I mean.

ADDENDUM: Yes, the left-leaning blogosphere is definitely up in arms regarding that embarrassment to two-legged, carbon-based life forms, NYT ombudsweasel Daniel Okrent. Roger Ailes takes a good swipe at him here.

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