FDL vs. NYT
We had a fine discussion yesterday about Sidney Blumenthal’s new book, How Bush Rules. It’s an incredible book by a serious author who has played no small part both in modern politics and the discussion thereof. It was led by noted historian and scholar Rick Perlstein, who was one of those to peer-review Sidney’s book, published by a University Press. Sidney himself will be here to discuss his book at the salon next week. I’m very proud not only of the exchange that ensued yesterday, but the way that it was appropriate to the tone and topic of the book.
In contrast, as Eric Boehlert points out, the New York Times assigned a lifestyle writer to review the book, a rather frothy bit of business named Jennifer Senior whose recent articles include "My Life as a Thin Person" and "Are Jews Smarter." She quickly and with little thought foxtrots right into a frenzy of right wing media canards and straight to the conclusion that Bush’s critics are so blinded by hatred they’re incapable of stringing a sentence together, and jeebus why can’t they be funny.
Yes this would be right at the same moment that the Administration is trying to suspend habeas corpus and legitimize torture. Somebody get me my joke book, I seem to have misplaced it.
Every author understands that the politics of book reviews can be complicated and infuriating, and for the most part it’s every man and woman for themselves. (Disclosure: Blumenthal is a friend and former colleague of mine.) But what makes this review so irksome is it doubles as a swipe at an entire political movement; a calculated attempt to dismiss and ridicule Bush critics who time and again have been proven right about his incompetence, yet remain MSM targets. Indeed, the Times critique strains mightily to paint Bush critics as "smug," "unglued," "condescending," "berserk", and "not wholly credible" "loathers" who reside beyond the mainstream.
We’ve heard it before. How damned uncivil we can be. I’ll just be over here coughing into a linen hankerchief on the fainting couch while our leaders ratify us into barbarism, ‘kay?
Yes, getting angry about usurping the constitution, torture and sending thousands to their deaths in a losing war for inexplicable reasons among a hundred other outrages is aesthetically jarring. Please, children, use your indoor voices. There’s no reason to scream.
If you think you’d enjoy a discussion of Blumenthal’s book that treats the subject matter with appropriate gravitas, feel free to take a look at Rick Perlstein’s post from yesterday and the conversation that he led. If you’re more interested in an Us Magazine wannabe-tone and an intellect more aptly pitched to writing about the first markdown sale at Barney’s, have a look at what they did at the newspaper of record.
Draw what conclusions you will.