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New J.D. Salinger Blog at Huffington Post

Naturally I'm stunned that Ms. Huffington has gotten J.D. Salinger to start blogging. His entries are hilarious, too, if somewhat overly focused on Seymour Glass. It's good to know that we were right all along, and he was, indeed, writing books under the pen name of Thomas Pynchon.

What's also interesting is this note from Arianna at the top of today's site:

"Today Norman Mailer gives public voice to what many of our contributors have told me privately: When something happens to which you want to -- have to -- respond, there is nothing like blogging. You don't have to wait for the New York Times to run your op-ed, you don't have to drive to a TV studio and get into make up, and you certainly don't have to wait until your book is between hard covers or your movie hits the screens. You can blog about it... unfiltered, uncensored, unedited."

We all agree that censorship is bad, but filtering and editing used to be considered a form of added value. Even acclaimed novelists need editors.

For example, an editor might have told Norman Mailer that his post today is insane. It is precisely the kind of thinking that marginalizes the Left, because it's daffy, paranoid, and worst of all, not even very interesting. Mailer suggests that the Newsweek mistake could have resulted from a disinformation plot within the Administration. This is conspiracy theorizing in its classic form. He writes, "One's counter-espionage hackles rise. If you want to discredit a Dan Rather or a Newsweek crew, just feed them false information from a hitherto reliable source. You learn that in Intelligence 101A. Counter-espionage often depends on building 'reliable sources.' You construct such reliability item by secret item, all accurate. That is seen by the intelligence artists as a necessary expenditure. It gains the source his credibility. Then, you spring the trap. As for the riots at the other end, on this occasion, they, too, could have been orchestrated. We do have agents in Pakistan, after all, not to mention Afghanistan."

Journalists and pundits and aging novelists should try to think more like scientists, who typically favor parsimonious rather than elaborate theories. Dan Rather and Mary Mapes and many other reporters have gotten in trouble when they've tried too hard to prove a theory and ignored possible alternative explanations (like, these documents could be fraudulent). Conspiracies do exist, but so do simple mistakes. The Mailer scenario has an implausible number of moving parts. That's not to say that it couldn't be possible, only that it's exceedingly more likely that a journalist unwisely relied on a single source who didn't know what he was talking about. Happens all the time, and you don't need the White House Office of Counter-Espionage to orchestrate it.

But maybe there's something wrong with my hackles.

[Now read this fun piece by Arianna on the adaptive advantage of the female orgasm.]

[For more on Gitmo and Newsweek etc., check out Marc Cooper's blog.]

By Joel Achenbach  |  May 18, 2005; 11:45 AM ET
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Dude, perhaps I am being obtuse, but are you kidding about the Salinger thing? If not where are the posts?

Posted by: Lex | May 18, 2005 12:43 PM | Report abuse

Methinks he's kidding. Either that or he's a cruel, cruel man -- albeit one with a funny column.

Posted by: 2Obtuse4u | May 18, 2005 12:59 PM | Report abuse

Does Norman Mailer need an editor? Did you ever read Ancient Evenings? As for his conspiracy theory, it reads more like a series of bizarre free associations under the guise of faux-authoritative social commentary.

I think our host was kidding about Salinger. It's much more likely the Reclusive One would devote more time unfolding about Holden Caufield.

Posted by: Ox-like Moron | May 18, 2005 1:15 PM | Report abuse

I think Salinger prefers to blog anonymously on Achenblog.

Posted by: Achenfan | May 18, 2005 1:26 PM | Report abuse

So this report about Norman Mailer isn't true at this place He hasn't been killed? Does anyone know?

Posted by: Burble | May 18, 2005 1:27 PM | Report abuse

"maybe there's something wrong with my hackles"

Artists are the canaries in our (sometimes too close to literal)coal mine. I respect their rantings, even if they sound paranoid.

Posted by: Karen B | May 18, 2005 1:47 PM | Report abuse

Am I the only one who actually considers the possibility that the Newsweek story was pulled becuase of the violence, and not because it's incorrect?

It seems pretty obvious, to me.

Posted by: out on a limb | May 18, 2005 2:19 PM | Report abuse

There are far more mistakes in the world than conspiracies. Unfortunately, the only prerequisite for a mistake is one person; a conspiracy requires at least two.

Posted by: BillH | May 18, 2005 2:56 PM | Report abuse

Just fyi I have posted again about the Salinger blog. Clarifying matters a wee bit.

Posted by: Achenbach | May 18, 2005 3:12 PM | Report abuse

Norman Mailer, could this be just a conspiracy theory or could it be true. We all know that our government doesn't lie, don't we. Did I just say that. Here's a conspiracy theory. Bush 41, Bush43, Kerry, Neogeopante, all graduates of Yale. Bill and Hillary graduated from Law School at, you guessed it, Yale. So, don't tell me about Norman Mailer's blog being a joke.

Posted by: Allen Hart | May 18, 2005 10:55 PM | Report abuse

OK, I know who J.D. Salanger is, he wrote that baseball story, but Seymor Glass, Thomas Pynchon?? man this blog is not for the unwashed masses.

Posted by: LB | May 19, 2005 12:19 PM | Report abuse

Hey J.D.,
If you're looking for funny, read the nighttime gardening story on the northern end of the blog. As a chronic nighttime autumn leaf raker, the part about planting dry-roasted peanuts really got me. Oh, and blog away, dude.

Posted by: Glass House | May 19, 2005 1:03 PM | Report abuse

I'll have you know that Norman Mailer plagiarized this half-baked conspiracy from me because I voiced it in a slightly more lucid form to a co-worker just a few days ago. (Whose ombudsman do I notify? Will there be a lot of forms to fill out?)
But, alas, I suspect Joel is right. There are simply too many moving parts here for the Bush administration to pull off a conspiracy like this successfully.
I remember a writer -- gee, I forget who -- observing something similar about the allegations that The Government killed JFK. Do we really think our government, so inept on a daily basis, could not only organize but cover up a conspiracy so immense in complexity for so long?
Of course, if a night watchman happens to catch a burglar in this Newsweek thing, I reserve the right to retract all of the above and challenge Normie to a fistfight.

Posted by: daryl | May 19, 2005 8:00 PM | Report abuse

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