Like a star collapsing upon itself, the columns of James Lileks cease to exist:
Imagine The New Yorker asking E.B. White to manage the restaurant listings. Envision the Los Angeles Times dropping Jim Murray from Sports and sending him to cover county governemnt (sic). Think about the San Francisco Chronicle assigning Herb Caen to the police blotter. It is that level stupid. (BTW: The Chron is still using Herb’s stuff –it is the byline business.)
Such is the sad state of journalism that Hugh Hewitt can’t even find a living journalist (not even one of the Pulitzer winning ones at Townhall) to compare Lileks to. I honestly can’t remember anyone ever writing a blog post about a Lileks’ column. His blog, yes. In fact his blog posts seem mostly to consist of: took Gnat to Target, came home and banged out three columns, re-alphabetized my matchbook collection, went back to Target to purchase new fall Bounty paper towel collection, smoked cigar and pondered why we haven’t killed enough Muslims, tucked Gnat into bed, watched DVD of horrible TV show canceled many years before, wondered if Target was still open….He is George Babbitt as written by Victor Davis Hanson. To be honest, I think that Lileks got pulled off of the column beat because of his blog. As Dennis Perrin wrote:
Still, warblogging has its hazards, and Lileks succumbs to tapping out long, bilious passages filled with “You want a piece of me?” mock toughness. There are times when his anger gets the better of him, and I’m somewhat amazed and slightly impressed that he has no shame in exposing it.
On an inner-Bleat page titled “The Screed,” (“a sporadic attempt to disassemble the indefensible,”) Lileks opines on how the courtroom antics of “Kathleen Sara Jane Soliah Olsen,” the ’70s faux-revolutionary on trial for past crimes, might have affected her teen daughter. “She began in tears and ended in sobs,” he writes, “and as I listened to her heartrending testimony I felt my own opinion change. Previously I wanted Soliah in jail. Having seen what she put her own child through, I wanted her to be burned at the stake.”
This is mild compared to a March 18, 2002 Bleat where Lileks takes aim at a worthy target, Geraldo Rivera, but fires wide right. Geraldo was in Israel interviewing a father who’d just lost a daughter to a suicide/homicide bomber, and according to Lileks
Geraldo stumbled around, unable to find the words, and finally launched gracelessly into his new script: “I am a Zionist,” he said, “but I want to be a Palestinianist. I have seen so much suffering on the other side. Just the other day I witnessed a man with his newborn baby, swaddled, going home from the hospital, and they had to wait behind a checkpoint–” I watched the father’s face carefully; not a flicker of emotion. No doubt he found the comparison obscene–his daughter had been killed, blown apart, and the fellow in Geraldo’s example had moral equivalence because his arrival home with his child was delayed by a few hours. I fully expected the father to ram the heel of his hand into Geraldo’s trachea and drive his hyoid bone clean through the back of the kapok-stuffed gourd Geraldo calls a head. But the father didn’t move a muscle.
Geraldo’s was indeed a poor analogy. A better one would have seen Geraldo compare the father’s anguish to a Palestinian father’s anguish after an Israeli helicopter gunship fired missiles into an apartment building and slaughtered his kids. But then that would make the human suffering equal, the sign of a horrible, seemingly timeless tribal conflict. Yet somehow I think that Lileks would take exception to that as well. Of all the Bleats I’ve read, I’ve yet to come across a hard critique of Israeli violence (though I suppose one might exist in the boundless back acres of the web).
Lileks has also blasted Ann Coulter and Ted Rall, both of whom deserve that and more, so he and I aren’t completely at odds.
By far my favorite outburst appeared this past November 21. That day Lileks decided to explain reality to a Baghdad-based Iraqi blogger named Salam Pax, whose opposition to Saddam and Paul Bremer has angered and confused many a warblogger, Lileks included. After Salam expressed some dissatisfaction with the U.S. occupation, Lileks gave him a thorough Bleating:
Hey, Salam? Fuck you. I know you’re the famous giggly blogger who gave us all a riveting view of the inner circle before the war, and thus know more about the situation than I do. Granted. But there’s a picture on the front page of my local paper today: third Minnesotan killed in Iraq. He died doing what you never had the stones to do: pick up a rifle and face the Ba’athists. You owe him.
Things like this have a way of coming back to bite you in the ass; just ask Amanda Marcotte & Melissa McEwen. It’s hard to be considered a humor columnist (or as Julia memorably described Lileks: the Erma Bombeck of the Guns and Ammo set) when you’re going full metal Tarantino on the internets.
Something had to give. Something gave.