Please reinvent me as a right-wing blowhard.
You've got to feel a little bit sorry for the Weekly Standard. They've become so starved for hysterical, knee-jerk, left-wing columnists to tear apart that they've retreated en masse to their basement to sew up pretend ones from hopsack and straw. A few weeks ago, the magazine ran a cover story by Charlotte Allen called "Duke's Tenured Vigilantes." The piece was a takedown of all the overheated, politically correct, believe-the-victim blather that broke out on campus and in the media in the early weeks of the Duke rape scandal. Allen's Exhibit "A" of the reflexive all-white-men-are-rapists opinion columns on the subject was a piece I did last April for Slate.
Here's the piece. Have a look while I go get another cup of coffee. The column was about the rush to judgment on both sides of the Duke case. My point was not that the Duke students were rapists and the accuser a victim—why would I have claimed either to be true at that time? My point was that everyone should stop claiming to know what had happened in that case without the benefit of facts. I suggested that the jurors would someday have to work hard to separate the truth from their prejudices and the insane amounts of spin on both sides. It was—without benefit of hindsight—a small request that everyone stop claiming to know the truth until we found out what the truth was.
So, how did Allen turn this into a hysterical men-are-pigs "hanging party"? She just cut and pasted until she'd rewritten the column to say it. Where I had referred to "mounds and mounds of significant physical evidence"—listing both exculpatory and inculpatory evidence, and highlighting the ways in which they conflicted—Allen inserted her own language to have me claim there were " '[m]ounds and mounds of significant physical evidence' that a rape had occurred."
Where I poked fun at three blowhards—Tucker Carlson, Rush Limbaugh, and Jesse Jackson—the first two for having offered unfounded opinions that the accuser was a whore; the latter for offering certain knowledge that she was a rape victim, Allen deleted the reference to Jackson, turning it into my attack on "anyone who believed the players were innocent."
Thus, a piece about a rush to judgment is recast as a rush to judgment, in a piece about a rush to judgment. How meta! Ordinarily these little misunderstandings are resolved by letters to the editor and corrections. But whoever is tasked with answering mail at the Weekly Standard must be busy in the basement sewing teensy little raisin-eyes onto imaginary, hysterical, race-baiting feminists instead.
I confess to initially being bothered by this new journalistic form. After all, writers choose and order their words for a reason. But the more I reflected, the more I realized I really was taking this whole journalism thing way too seriously. I mean, what's so all-fire holy about truth and accuracy that you can't have a little fun with it sometimes? Heck, if we can't treat one another's prose like those little Starbucks fridge magnets, why bother turning on the computer every morning?
So, I turn to you, my readers, to help me invent a new Imaginary Right-Wing Hack. And I'm asking you to start with that bilious conservative wing nut, Dahlia Lithwick, whose April 22 column on the Duke rape case was a full-bore assault on women and minorities, and a stunning piece of right-wing vitriol to boot. Make free with the cut and paste functions, and please don't be afraid of those ellipses ... Rewrite the column as Ann Coulter channeling Bill O'Reilly and send your entries to Dahlia.Lithwick@hotmail.com. I reserve the right to print your name unless you tell me otherwise.
Bonus points if you can turn this around for Valentine's Day. And triple bonus points if you can manage to do the same thing with the Chili's menu.
First prize will receive a subscription to the Weekly Standard, on my dime, plus a copy of my upcoming book, How the Duke Lacrosse Team Is Responsible for Global Warming, 9/11, the Death of Anna Nicole Smith, and the Black Plague of 1347.
Dahlia Lithwick writes about the courts and the law for Slate.
Photograph of Duke lacrosse players by Sara D. Davis/Getty Images.