And Yo Mama’s Ugly, Too!

March 23rd, 2011 · No Comments · Uncategorized

By Tracy Dingmann

Back in Ye Olden Tymes when I was in journalism school at the University of Wisconsin, I had a notoriously tough and feared professor who had worked at the New York Times.

The class was called something like “Advanced Editorial Writing,” and I loved it. One of many things I remember about the class was my professor’s reaction when I wrote a snippy letter to the editor to the New York Times as part of one of his assignments. I got an A on the letter – but I will always remember the note he wrote next to the grade.

“A well-turned argument – but the tone is too flippant for the staid Times. Perhaps more suitable for The Capital Times,” he wrote.

It was the first time I had really thought about the tone and level of discourse every newspaper has, and they all how go about maintaining it.

For example, the New York Times, with its wide swaths of gray type and detailed stories quoting eminent sources, was and is still known as the nation’s “newspaper of record.”

On the other hand, The Capital Times, the local daily in Madison where I later got my first reporting job, was a feisty afternoon paper that prided itself in catchy headlines and short, punchy political stories of mostly local interest.

Ad Hominem Attacks

So I was a little surprised to see the honestly quite hateful guest opinion piece called “Let Wealth Creators Do Their Thing,” in the Albuquerque Journal on March 20.

The piece, written by Los Alamos resident Steve Stringer, was in response to an editorial column by syndicated columnist E. J. Dionne of the Washington Post, which ran on March 14.

Dionne’s column, called “Guess What? We’re Not ‘Broke,” Just Misinformed” in the newspaper’s print edition and “What If We’re Not Broke?” online, took issue with the standard argument that local and state governments are broke. There are plenty of ways to raise revenues by reversing tax cuts for the rich and corporations – and without scapegoating unions, schools, and the rest of America, Dionne argued. (My colleague Arthur Alpert wrote about the Journal’s trouble in coming up with an accurate headline for the piece here.)

Disagreement is one thing – but here is the source of my shock: Stringer’s column was filled with childish, ad hominem attacks, not just generally on anyone who disagrees with his view – but specifically, on Dionne himself. He likened the columnist to a crackpot – twice!

I quote:

“Reading Dionne’s commentary is like listening to a crackpot arguing that we could all fly if only there weren’t any doubters. The fact that gravity –economic and fiscal gravity – has something to do with use not flying is somehow lost in his crackpot argument.”

Stringer also accused Dionne of “clearly arguing to just to win elections” (?) and finished up by calling Dionne’s argument “criminal.”

But that’s not all.

Stringer also directed special vitriol toward anyone who advocates for higher taxes for the wealthy, calling then “witless” people who are “destroying jobs and defunding social progress.”

“Let’s presume they are genuinely witless, because if they are in fact destroying people’s hopes on purpose, they are committing a crime against humanity. If so, let’s not talk about electing them, let’s talk about prosecuting them in the International Court of Justice.”

I don’t even know what publication that is right for – Free Republic maybe?

But not for the Albuquerque Journal, I wouldn’t think.

Or, more like, I wouldn’t hope.

I mean, does the Journal truly stand by fact-free rants filled with name-calling and accusations about imaginary criminal acts?

Is that what it stands for?

Maybe that’s the tone the city’s only daily and self-proclaimed “paper of record” wants to project, but I shudder to think so.

Let’s hope it was some kind of tragic oversight.

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