On Marty Peretz and punditry
I've been criticized a few million times for things I have written and said. That's fair game.
Now I'm being slammed for something I didn't write or say.
I am, according to Columbia Journalism Review, remaining "silent." (Don't I have that Fifth Amendment right, like you see in the movies?)
My sin is that I have not denounced Marty Peretz. More on that in a moment.
The reason I have not weighed in is--boredom alert--I have been swamped. I cling to the old-fashioned belief that I ought to know what I'm talking about before I pop off. I put a lot of research, and thought, into what I write and say.
In recent weeks I've been swamped with launching and maintaining this real-time blog, including such mundane tasks as learning how to post video. I've also been traveling quite a bit. So I did not believe the world was breathlessly waiting to hear what I had to say about Peretz.
What the owner of the New Republic wrote, in a blog post, was this: "Frankly, Muslim life is cheap, especially for Muslims." And he questioned whether "these people" were worthy of First Amendment protection. I find those to be outrageous and unacceptable statements. You can say that about some Muslim terrorists, and you can criticize some Muslims for failing to speak out against violence, but how do you libel everyone who follows Islam?
I became aware of this when Nick Kristof of the New York Times denounced Peretz for bigotry. Then I saw that Peretz had apologized. I linked to the apology on this blog; Kristol had repudiated the comments more eloquently than I could have. I also noticed that the former Harvard professor had been disinvited from a speaking engagement at the university. It's a perfectly legitimate story. But I've been focused on the midterms and some newspaper profiles and did not find time to reflect on it.
Yes, I was highly critical of Helen Thomas saying that Israelis should go back to places like Germany and Poland, but I was reporting that story for the paper. I called Thomas and got her comments. Then she quit her job, and the story got bigger.
The Guardian e-mailed me for comment on the Peretz business and I said I was sorry but hadn't focused on it. Then the CJR guy sent me a note but it got lost in the hundreds of e-mails I get each day. But I still believe I shouldn't weigh in on every controversy that comes down the pike without a bit of reflection.
The journalism review went on to say that I've been remiss in not criticizing Peretz's history of bigoted statements. But I would have to study what he said, and the surrounding context, to know whether that's true.
I guess we live in a culture where everyone, including media critics, is supposed to have an instant response to everything that happens. But I'm going to resist that urge.
Hey, didja see that John Boehner said he'd never been in a tanning bed? You know what I think about that? Uh, I'll get back to you.
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