Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Swift Reactions 7

As I am feeling a bit too lazy to write an actual blog post today, I think it is time for another edition of Swift Reactions, where I focus on what you, my dear readers, have written and do as little of my own writing as possible. And this week I focus as well on what my non-readers are saying about me after not reading what I have written.

One of the great things about having a blog is that sometimes I get to interact with people who probably wouldn't give me the time of day if I met them on the street and asked them what time it was. My piece "Journalism 101," which laid out a handy list of the 20 basic Rules of Journalism, provoked responses from a number of real journalists who emailed me or commented on their sites, including Eric Alterman, Dan Gillmor, The Spokesman-Review, Ed Cone, Pulitzer Prize-winning writer Richard Aregood of The Guardian, Jeff Cohen (who sent me a very kind email) and Dan Froomkin, who emailed me to say cryptically that he found my piece "painful." But perhaps none was so generous as former Vanity Fair writer Jesse Kornbluth, author of six books I have not actually read and founder of Head Butler, who took time out of his busy schedule to send me an email schooling me on the finer points of journalism. "You worked on your high school paper --- could you have worked on your college paper with those views? Doubtful," wrote Mr. Kornbluth. "I practiced the craft for 30+ years. At a high level. I love objectivity. But 'John Kerry lied about his service' and 'John Kerry is being slandered' --- that, pal, is where journalism BEGINS, not ends. You get the bucks to find the truth. And report it clearly, while acknowledging the path that led you there. But why I am writing to you? You wrote for a high school paper. And now you have a blog. And you're a finalist in some blog contest. Is this a great country, or what?" Indeed, it is a great country, Mr. Kornbluth, and I'm happy to see you have not forgotten Rule No. 3, that "journalists are Americans first, journalists second and human beings third."

Rule No. 6 according to the Rules of Journalism is "If both liberals and conservatives criticize you, that must mean you are doing something right," and considering all the negative feedback I got for this piece, I must have been doing something right. Not surprisingly, much of the harshest criticism came from my most frequent commenter, Anonymous, who has been acting very strangely recently. Either he has developed multiple personality disorder or a number of different commenters are impersonating him. Michael Plank, Julia and Porlock Junior all pointed out that Anonymous was coincidentally once Joe Klein's pseudonym. It wouldn't be too surprising if Klein himself might have commented here as Anonymous, though he would no doubt deny it vehemently. In fact, he would probably stake his credibility on it. While Anonymous did not deny being Joe Klein, he did deny being Mark Halperin, Ann Coulter, Alex Rawls, and Michael Fumento, which narrows down the possibilities considerably.

Anonymous called my piece on Mark Halperin "line after line of waspish, envy driven ad hominem," and called my "Journalism 101" piece " a huge load of excrement" and claimed his "head just exploded" after reading it, which sounds quite painful and certainly was not my intention. My friends Carl and Chuck Butcher valiantly defended me throughout these threads and Chuck even challenged Anonymous to post a comment on his own blog under a recognizable moniker, which he did in this post under the name "a reasonable conservative," apparently in tribute to me. (Type the words "reasonable conservative" into Google and hit "I'm feeling lucky" and see what happens.)

Several of my critics boasted proudly here and elsewhere that they could not manage to even read the entire piece before they felt compelled to comment on it. I have long said that you don't have to read a book to review it and I have to admit sometimes I can't even read my own posts all the way through, much less entire posts on other people's blogs. In fact, recently, someone I have never heard of reviewed my blog, but I'm afraid I have no idea what she said because the type just seemed a bit too small for me to bother reading the review. I did, however, leave a comment thanking her for the review and expressing how much I liked the background color and the little icons she appended to the end of the review. I do hope it was a positive review.

Not reading the work of someone you are criticizing also seems to be surprisingly popular in the halls of academia, where I thought reading was actually required as part of the job description. Professors Jeff Goldstein and Ann Althouse, perhaps fearing that their heads might literally explode, both claimed that they had not read my blog before launching very personal attacks on me. Mr. Goldstein not only claimed several times that he had not read a post he then proceeded to subject to painful semiotic analysis, he even claimed, somewhat dubiously, that he had actually gone to the post's page and scrolled down (no doubt with one hand covering his eyes as he pressed the PgDn key with the index finger of the other) in order to attack one of the comments on the piece.

When I left a comment on yet another of Ms. Althouse's continuing series of anti-Hillary pieces saying that it appeared to me if Hillary got elected she might suffer the same unfortunate fate as David Broder, a comment that was full of genuine concern for her health, she took it all wrong and lashed out at me. At first it was quite upsetting, though then I realized that may just be how she expresses affection. "Don't you think you should have to be more of a wit to live up to your name?" she asked me. I replied: "I don't quite understand how living up to my name, which I have said on many occasions is a tribute to the brave Swift Boat Veterans, requires me to be witty anymore than your living up to your name requires you to be a creaky old house." When I pointed out that she had apparently misread the piece, she replied, "I didn't read your piece. Don't flatter yourself," implying, it seemed, that her actually reading another person's work before she attacked that person was a privilege she bestowed only on a rare and worthy few. "Who's flattering whom?" I wondered.

Both Goldstein and Althouse are teachers and if any of their students are reading this, they might like to know that they don't have to bother reading any of the assigned texts (since their teachers probably haven't) or worry about putting too much effort into papers they write for class because their professors are probably not going to read those either before giving them a low grade. If you can now get a job at a university without having to read and you can just spout whatever crazy things happen to come into your head, then this just might be a line of work for which I am especially suited.

Not all of the comments on my recent pieces here were negative ones, of course, and there were some very constructive contributions to the discourse. Commenting on Mark Halperin's proposal that journalists stop covering campaigns like horse races, Out of Context suggested, "It may be easier to improve things by changing the way horse races are covered." My good friend Miss Cellenia very kindly said, "No one ever needs to say anything about journalism again, because you've covered it all here," which considering her exhaustive and encyclopedic coverage of everything from Alien Abduction to Zombies was very high praise indeed. skippy the bush kangaroo paid me a very kind compliment by starting a rumor that I not only write all of the comments on my blog but all of the comments and posts on his blog as well, which I don't mind people believing but I am forced to deny. But perhaps the best suggestion I have received recently was from -- you guessed it -- Anonymous, who said, "I can only assume that George Soros pays you by the word." All I can say to that is from your lips to George Soros' ears.


Anonymous said...

Well Sir Jon Swift, you submitted your blog with your email address and it had to have been you because you replied to the "please confirm you have submitted your blog" or else we never would have received the email in the first place.
We put that little step in place when people such as yourself said they didn't do it. :)

p.s. I made the font bigger just for you. :)

Jon Swift said...

I checked my email archives and see that I confirmed your request to review my blog back in March and I'm afraid I must have forgotten all about it. I guess it must have taken you a while to read all of the posts in my archives in order to make a fair assessment of the content of my site. Thank you very much for making the font bigger. When I'm feeling a little less lazy I'll try to get around to reading your review.

Anonymous said...

I think between the evidence you present here of journalists responding in detail to things they have not read, and the fact that it often appears they are writing about things without having actually asked anyone about them, we can conclude that they are receiving the information which they present to us in the news either from pheromones, spiritual transmissions through the aether, or directly from The Muse, whose name appears to have been modernized to the catchier "Senior Administration Official."

While softly o'er the pearl-deck'd plain,
Cold Dian leads the sylvan train;
In mazy dance and sportive glee,
And thou shalt deck my couch with flow'rs,
And wing with joy my silent hours.

--Mary Darby Robinson

More journalism like this, please.

Anonymous said...

Oh, my.

Seems you have struck a nerve or too.

Chuck Butcher said...

The mere mention of my poor little blog by the esteemed Jon Swift is sufficient to raise Technorati's estimation of my blog's worth an entire point and move it past 14,000 other less favored. Perhaps it is good for me that they also do not read what they grade.

Evidently our ruler GeorgeII is also successful at not reading before grading...

Unknown said...

thanks for commenting on my comment about your comments on my comments.

your writing is so good that nobody understands it, which is the highest form of communication in today's post-modern deconstructed world.

punkinsmom said...

I admit that I am tempted to comment on all of your posts just to see if I can make an edition of "Swift Reactions."

Anonymous said...

I needed to put something in here because I just noticed that I haven't commented yet.

Miss Cellania said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Miss Cellania said...

Paid by the word?! You'd be a rich man! I wish I could swing a deal like that... but when I have so many typos that I have to delete a comment and start over, it ain't gonna happen.

JasonC said...

i didn't read any of this, but i'm sure it sucked, just like everything else you've written that i don't read.

and may i submit that you do not, in fact, get paid by george soros; indeed, YOU ARE GEORGE SOROS!


Anonymous said...

I thought Ms. Althouse's comment about you "living up to your name" was uncalled for. Why, it's as if she is implying that your name was somehow famous before it belonged to you or something.

More than that, she seems to be implying that she is not only familiar with the works of someone who once used your name, but has read and comprehended their genius, and holds their ideas in high esteem.

But that's clearly impossible. I shall leave the proof as an exercise for the reader.

Anonymous said...

I simply don't understand why some of these journalists can't figure out that JS is only trying to help.

Anonymous said...

I firmly believe, that it's not necessary to read journalism to review the same. And I offer as evidence and confirmation, the fine work of Joe Klein's editor at Time Magazine.

The obvious benefit of not reading what you review or edit, is you can never be accused of bias. How can I be biased, when I don't really know what was written?

Not reading articles is the secret of good editing and perhaps the foundation of a future Swift article on editing 101.

I believe if you continue to practice good journalistic judgment and avoid too much reading of sources, you may in fact one day advance to the position of editor of the vast blogophere conspiracy.

I see great things in your future, Mr. Swift.

Anonymous said...

Wow, the IT2M review, and the subsequent comments section, was perhaps the most pathetically superficial thing I've ever read.

You, Mr. Swift, are a very brave man to have waded into that swamp of filth, although I have to question your decision to share it with the rest of us - that Althouse link already exceeded my daily dose of inane & crazy. I think I'm going to get some kind of canker sore from this post.

With the writers' strike, I wonder how long it will take before the "I get all my news from the Daily Show" crowd becomes the "I get all my news from the Jon Swift" bunch.

spencer said...

Did Goldstein actually find someone who is willing to pay him to teach? When I last checked in on him (and to be fair, that was a while ago, as his site makes my skin break out in horrific hives), he was still a failed academic. A prolific writer, sure, but no teacher.

Anonymous said...

A prolific unpublished writer, don't forget. Reading any of his blog posts or other stuff will immediately explain why this is.

His well-paid wife and massive ego are robbing a copy shop somewhere of a decent manager. Humanity's loss, I suppose.

todd said...

Ms Chatty's fascinating little blog proves once and for all that the Internet does indeed have a trailer park.

Anonymous said...

OK, Mr. Swift, please be advised that you have made it into my coveted bookmark list for political blogs. Please note that this is strictly probationary and you'll have to prove that you deserve this inclusion by continuing to tweak the noses of the very serious pundits who truly hate Al Gore for inventing the internets- particularly the 'comments' feature.

(While I cannot tell you where you're located in the list, suffice it to say that you are in very good company).

Anonymous said...

Thank you. That's exactly the vibe I was getting, I just couldn't put it into words. The closest I could come to describing the experience was "Well, it's like that kid who sits at the back of the class, eats the paste and has no social skills, but somehow manages have a huge ego." Pity and contempt are a strange combination of feelings.

I could have sworn that in Ms Chatty's comments section, she mentions something about having a degree. I could be wrong, and I'm not crazy enough to go back and check, but one can only hope that that it is from some unaccredited online University. Otherwise, God help us, I'll weep.

Anonymous said...

I think Ms. Catty's degree would be approximately room temperature...

Anonymous said...

LOL! I love your posts.

Anonymous said...

Well, finally. You, sir, are getting a little of what you deserve.

Michael Bérubé said...

If memory serves, Mr. Swift, Professor Althouse also told Jessica Valenti not to flatter herself. So even though Ms. Valenti is a strident liberal, in a sense you're in good company.

I share your concern about the professor's health, however. It is reassuring, in these fractious times, that people like us can reach a bipartisan consensus every now and then.

Bukko Boomeranger said...

You got Froomkin to write to you?!? I am SO envious!

I leave comments on his Post column, send in questions when he does a live on-line Q&A and sometimes frequent his Nieman blog. I would physically stalk him but I'm in the wrong hemisphere for that.

He always ignores me because the comments tend to focus on the topic of George Bush and trials for crimes against humanity, or firing squads. I'm like Helen Thomas at presidential press gaggles, waving my hands and never getting called on, except I think she doesn't inquire whether The Decider will ask his Secret Service guards to die in machine-gun battles with United Nations arresting officers dispatched from The Hague. But maybe she WOULD ask that if he gave her the chance. Then again, that wouldn't be very journalistic, would it?

Carl said...

No doubt, sir, Ms Outhouse was able after several glasses of wine to channel the innertubenets to osmosify your post regarding her, thus allowing her to "read" you without reading you.

Either that, or she put on a dirty raincoat before she scurried over here, using a friend's computer.

Carl said...

Anonymous said...
Well, finally. You, sir, are getting a little of what you deserve.

The awards are coming fast and furious, yes.

Carl said...

Michael Bérubé said...
If memory serves, Mr. Swift, Professor Althouse also told Jessica Valenti not to flatter herself.

Sir, with all due respect to your massive godhood on the liberal front (puns intended, as you shall see), I believe Althouse DID tell her to flatter herself, or at least not to put on a push-up bra.

The jealousy of the ancient and overweight towards the nubile is a sad thing to watch.

Anonymous said...

my goodness...ms chatty is so brave.

the lovely lasses at it2m are really quite...well...my mom always said if you can't say anything nice, don't say anything at all.

maybe they should follow suit.

Brando said...

Thank you for keeping the perpetual comedy machines of Goldstein and Althouse going.

James Higham said...

Hillary gets in and vengeance will be seen or more likely hidden.

Anonymous said...

I'm with Skippy: Jon's strength is that no one understands what the heck he's talking about, which means that he's talking about all important things at the same time (after all, when you do everything at the same time, you wind up doing nothing well).

What's more, despite the constant attacks from angry libruls one has to acknowledge that Jon is one of those few reasonable conservatives who are always willing to not look at the other side of the debate as to keep their own views as pure as possible.

In today's world, ignoring the other side is a virtue.

I suppose that this is also why Mr. Swift isn't a journalist. For if he was, he should have to take both sides into consideration unless it's war.

And lets face it, the US has been at war since 2001 which actually means that Mr. Swift could very well have become a journalist after 2001.

He has to stop being a journalist if the wars are won though.

That, or the president has to start new wars.

Um. I don't remember what I wanted to say, but I'm sure it makes sense.

* As usual Jon: awesome job!

Anonymous said...

Rule No. 22 I have a Bachelors degree in Journalism but never pursued the field. I had other opportunities. Nevertheless, I have always found it odd that while hardcore journalists defend the first amendment above and beyond all else, (guns, religion,etc.)they appear to continually place more faith in goverment controlled news outlet such and NPR, PBS or especially the BBC. Among journalists, the BBC can do no wrong. This clear inconsistency among the liberal elite of the Newsies continues to bewilder me.

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