In today's New York Times, Martin Peretz laments the ill effects of Web journalism and blogs on political culture.
"The political dialogue has been digitally enhanced, but it has also been digitally diminished," the New Republic editor in chief says to David Carr. "I do not remember a time, even during the 60's, when there was such uncivil discourse. … Even at Harvard."
If insulting noise is the Web's disease, Peretz's new blog, The Spine, isn't the cure. Setting his computer on "flame," he hits the gas in his debut post, which went up today. He complains about unnamed journalists who "don't even pretend to know history … don't know the sheer facts of yesterday" and "interview fools and knaves as if they were wise and good." He never identifies the stupid journalists, but by the end of the item Peretz adds some much-needed specificity to the post with an example: He's angry at the TV press for interviewing Al Sharpton! Naming names and name-calling in one sentence, Peretz writes:
Every time I see Al Sharpton on television, I wonder why this great and phantasmagorical liar is being put forward as a witness to anything. Has journalism no judgement? Is this what is meant by objectivity?
In his second post of the day, Peretz assails Lewis "Scooter" Libby's critics at MoveOn, likening them to comsymps. He writes:
Folk who wouldn't have thought Alger Hiss or the Rosenbergs or Philip Agee guilty of treason have been calling [Scooter Libby] a traitor.
A few words later, Peretz aims his afterburner at another set of villains, writing:
In a time when self-styled civil libertarians are giving money to defend Muslim terrorists, I am happy to help defend an American patriot. …
Fools, knaves, and liars. Ignorant journalists. Traitors and more traitors. Marty Peretz was born to blog.
The Awesome Nerve of Martin Peretz: Peretz, who goes on and on about the ignorance of the press corps, botches the name of the law that the outers of Valerie Plame were purported to have violated. He calls it the "Intelligence Identification Protection Act." Close, but no match. It's the "Intelligence Identities Protection Act." Peretz also writes that Richard Armitage "has actually confessed" to violating the act, which proves that Peretz has never read it. One must, among other things, knowingly reveal the cover of a covert officer to break the law. No credible source has accused Armitage of doing that.
The Peretz Index: Number of words: 1,500. Number of self-references: 28. Number of $10 words: two ("tocsin" and "phantasmagorical"). Number of stupid comparisons: one (the Republicans are like Sen. Joe McCarthy because they have the "habit" of referring to the Democratic Party as the "Democrat Party," just as Joe did). Number of foreign words or phrases: one ("par excellence"). Number of grammatical errors flagged by Microsoft Word: one (he writes "It's" when he means "Its"). Number of sentences that begin with "And": nine. Number of British spellings: one (he writes "judgement" twice).
Addendum, Sept. 12: Reader e-mail: Don Geisz spots another misspelling. Peretz writes "dessert" when he obviously means "desert." Chris Shea suggests a perfect outlet for Peretz's scribblings, Adjunct Advocate. He describes it as "the magazine for the lowliest academic workers, those without tenure track jobs and therefore with zero stature in the academy." Dick Riley maintains that I'm missing the "fantastic consequences" of The Spine: "It will keep him (I hope!) off TNR's regular Plank, where all the good writers blog, and may even keep Peretz from writing articles. I thought—and commented to this effect on the TNR site—that Peretz, amazingly bad writer that he is, was ruining his magazine's website by sticking his two cents in throughout the Plank. The blog was hard to read not knowing how far down I was going to have to scroll to skip through Marty's endless posts. But now, he is cabined in his own space, and I just don't have to click on it. It's great!"
Addendum, Sept. 13: After reading this column Peretz uses The Spine to salute me as a "populist" and praise my "anti-intellectualism." Maybe I've been too tough on the old loon.
If he didn't own a piece of the New Republic and didn't blog, where could Peretz get published? The Washington Post "Close to Home" page? Send your nominations via e-mail to email@example.com. (E-mail may be quoted by name unless the writer stipulates otherwise. Permanent disclosure: Slate is owned by the Washington Post Co.)
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