Enemies as a gauge of one's worth

The Baltimore Sun’s David Zurawik (a neighbor as well as a colleague) prompts a flurry of abuse whenever his blog on television addresses political coverage. Some of the responses are reasoned and cogent, many more are merely reflexive denunciations of the Wicked Liberal News Media devoid of any further content, and some are extremely personal attacks.

I could launch into a jeremiad about the decline of civility in public discourse (not that American public discourse has ever been all that civil, viz., the abuse heaped on Hamilton and Jefferson in the earliest days of the Republic), accompanied by obligatory moaning over the foulness of the Internet in fostering nastiness.

But that’s been done, and to no effect. I think rather that there is merit to be found in the attacks, the meaner-spirited the better. If you take on the burden of reading through the scores of comments on Mr. Zurawik’s posts, pay particular attention to the ill-spelled, ungrammatical, incoherent ad hominem attacks. To be attacked by people that stupid and vicious must indicate merit in what you say.

Though You Don’t Say is a humbler operation, with a more [cough] select audience than the TV, dining or sports blogs at baltimoresun.com, here too can be found enemies who validate the enterprise.

Just this week, my post on the fatuous proposal to send newspaper copy editing offshore yielded a comment numbering me among the “[n]utless pricks who wear bow ties and who haven't figured out how to fix the problems in their own newsrooms.”

The author is well known in newspaper editing and design circles for his frequently expressed view that emphasis on newspaper design has destroyed the business. (You may be excused for recalling Samuel Johnson’s remark, “That fellow seems to me to possess but one idea, and that is a wrong one.”) His intemperate attacks have gotten him banned from a number of discussion boards, and he has vilified in the most personal terms a number of colleagues who have had the temerity to (a) disagree with him and (b) display greater professional ability and success.

We must conclude, then, that a venomous attack from that quarter can be taken as, though perhaps not a badge of honor, at least a certification of one’s professional standing.

Comments on this blog require the blogger’s approval to be published, so further attacks by the gentleman will not be appearing here. Do not fear, however, that his freedom of speech is thus abridged. He maintains a blog himself, at which he makes posts, comments on them himself, and then solemnly agrees with himself. Anyone interested in observing perfect circularity may apply to me for the Web address.



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