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Hullabaloo


Tuesday, March 28, 2006

 
Intervention

by digby

A couple of months ago when Deborah Howell was "deluged" with "uncivilized" comments about her failure to correct a blatant misrepresentation, the Washington Post ombudsman and others had a shrieking fit of the vapors and spent days on the fainting couch mumbling incoherently about the rude insults they had to endure. I thought Howell would have to take a leave of absense and get herself to a nunnery for a few weeks just to regain her belief in the goodness of mankind after such an assault.

As was amply demonstrated, the vast majority of the comments were not, in fact, crude or filthy. They condemned the Post for uncritically recycling RNC talking points and failing to provide proof of their assertions. And they used aggressive language to do it.

But as Busy, Busy Busy's Elton Beard noticed, Howell only seems to be truly stunned, angry and upset by certain kinds of criticism. Others, not so much. Here's Howell this past Sunday:

One critic of the coverage is John Dowd, a Washington lawyer: "I can't subscribe to your newspaper anymore because you have lost all sense of balance and perspective in your coverage of the war in Iraq and against the terrorists. It is clear to those of us who have our sons and daughters who are in harm's way that you support the terrorists and you are opposed to the efforts of our Marines, all who are sacrificing so that you are free to publish without interference."

Dowd's son Dan is a Marine captain, just back from his second tour as a helicopter pilot in Iraq. Dowd sees his son and other U.S. and Iraqi soldiers "as the most selfless people I've known in my life." I found his letter haunting; it pains me that he would think Post journalists support terrorists.


Beard says:

Think about that.

A reader accuses Washington Post journalists of siding with Goldstein - er, terrorists - and Deborah Howell doesn't think, this man is either demented or trying to manipulate me. She doesn't crumple up and toss the letter and she doesn't add it to her loony folder, already overflowing with missives from crazed liberals. She does not take offense at the slur on her colleagues. Quite the opposite. She takes the complaint seriously


It pains her to think this fine man believes that the Washington Post supports terrorists. She's "haunted" by that criticism. But those of us who would like the Post to correct their errors are uncivilized beasts from the fever swamp who are dragging down the discourse. That's very revealing, I think. Deborah Howell, like so many of her brethren, has so internalized rightwing criticism that it doesn't even seem unreasonable anymore. She "understands" it. This man called her a traitor to her face and all it does is make her feel sad. She doesn't even know that she has completely absorbed the right's criticisms.

And when liberals point out that she has become subsumed by a radical Republican establishment, when they bring attention to the fact that she no longer even knows when she is being manipulated and abused --- she gets angry and tries to kill the messenger.

The truth is that we are not trying to destroy the media with our barbaric uncouth ways and unflattering criticisms. We are trying to save it. It's not surprising that they have become self-loathing, addicted to RNC spin and dependent on the approbation of the Republican establishment. We can all see why they would no longer be able to tell the difference between rational conservative discourse and RNC propaganda. They've been under sustained attack for years.

That's why we've decided we need to stage an intervention. The first step is to wake them up and make them realize that when a reader calls them a terrorist sympathizer the proper response is not to "feel pained" or be "haunted." It's to recognize that the person who is saying it is a deluded rightwing nutcase --- and then get righteously pissed. That is not a benign charge --- they are fighting words.

And conversely, when someone calls them on an error, the proper response is to admit it and correct it, not become freaked out by the passion of those who demand it. These two kinds of feedback from readers are not equivalent and the second is certainly not more deserving of anger and shock than the first. Being called a traitor to your country is a deeply offensive insult. Being told you are not doing your job correctly may be insulting, but it's hardly in the same league. The fact that Deborah Howell cannot see that --- and takes the first one more seriously than the second --- is the very essence of the problem with the mainstream press.



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