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Enemies as a gauge of one's worth

The Baltimore Sun’s David Zurawik (a neighbor as well as a colleague) prompts a flurry of abuse whenever his blog on television addresses political coverage. Some of the responses are reasoned and cogent, many more are merely reflexive denunciations of the Wicked Liberal News Media devoid of any further content, and some are extremely personal attacks.

I could launch into a jeremiad about the decline of civility in public discourse (not that American public discourse has ever been all that civil, viz., the abuse heaped on Hamilton and Jefferson in the earliest days of the Republic), accompanied by obligatory moaning over the foulness of the Internet in fostering nastiness.

But that’s been done, and to no effect. I think rather that there is merit to be found in the attacks, the meaner-spirited the better. If you take on the burden of reading through the scores of comments on Mr. Zurawik’s posts, pay particular attention to the ill-spelled, ungrammatical, incoherent ad hominem attacks. To be attacked by people that stupid and vicious must indicate merit in what you say.

Though You Don’t Say is a humbler operation, with a more [cough] select audience than the TV, dining or sports blogs at, here too can be found enemies who validate the enterprise.

Just this week, my post on the fatuous proposal to send newspaper copy editing offshore yielded a comment numbering me among the “[n]utless pricks who wear bow ties and who haven't figured out how to fix the problems in their own newsrooms.”

The author is well known in newspaper editing and design circles for his frequently expressed view that emphasis on newspaper design has destroyed the business. (You may be excused for recalling Samuel Johnson’s remark, “That fellow seems to me to possess but one idea, and that is a wrong one.”) His intemperate attacks have gotten him banned from a number of discussion boards, and he has vilified in the most personal terms a number of colleagues who have had the temerity to (a) disagree with him and (b) display greater professional ability and success.

We must conclude, then, that a venomous attack from that quarter can be taken as, though perhaps not a badge of honor, at least a certification of one’s professional standing.

Comments on this blog require the blogger’s approval to be published, so further attacks by the gentleman will not be appearing here. Do not fear, however, that his freedom of speech is thus abridged. He maintains a blog himself, at which he makes posts, comments on them himself, and then solemnly agrees with himself. Anyone interested in observing perfect circularity may apply to me for the Web address.



Posted by John McIntyre at 11:58 AM | | Comments (17)


As a loyal reader, send the web address this way. I promise to be a read-only guest.

Given the number of members of the D@L Sandbox who are seen popping up here (and given your heretofore welcome visits to the Sandbox) I will comment no further than (as opposed to then) this on the irony of your characterisation of this audience as more select.

We can however all agree on the unibrow, knuckle dragging nature of sports blog contributors.

Dear Mr. McIntyre:

I wuz mad wen you maade funn of thu pepple in thu Sandbox. We is funn peple and we ar nniece. We dont get meen ushally.
Itz ownly peple lik Springs1 who get meen.
We iz saad now.

We at D@L
-don't want to use its nickname and raise the ire of Signor Gufo-
are a diverse and interesting bunch, not sure about being more select.


Ah, so the W_rdhawk has found you. Congratulations, my condolences, and I salute you on your response to his attack.

Oh Lord, you mean there's ANOTHER one?

McIntryre - smooth way to deflect from the fact that you are Owl Meat and, from the looks of things, several other nom de plumes (i.e. Trixie) on D@L lately (heads up Bucky!).

I categorically deny that I am Owl meat or that I have any knowledge of him beyond reading his comments at Were he sitting incognito next to me on the copy desk (it isn't you, is it, Phil?), I would have no way of knowing. Perhaps some night as I walk to my car, I will have no more than an instant's sense of soft wings gliding rapidly down through the air, and then it will be too late.

Ah ha! You did not deny that you were Trixie.

I am not. I have no need for aliases, pseudonyms or noms de plume or de guerre. Being myself is quite troublesome enough.

John, sounds like something Bruce Wayne would say.

And don't forget what Oprah would say: denial is just a river in Egypt. She's like Socrates.

Frankly, while I can believe that you are Owl Meat Gravy, I find it hard to believe that he is you. That's sort of a compliment, I think.

Phil? Who is Phil? Does he eat a lot of pretzels?

Since you quote Johnson, how about some apropos Jonson (Cynthia's Revels, III,iii):
So they be ill men,
If they spake worse, 'twere better: for of such
To be dispraised, is the most perfect praise.

My doc was pleased with my BP during the physical, particularly in light of my failure to take my morning BP meds. When he asked what else I was doing to keep the BP under control, I told him that I had been avoiding all exposure to Zurawik's commentaries. There is just too much wobble in that man's orbit for my stability.

Way to increase your hit rate, JM.

I haven't visited here in a while; nice to be back.

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About John McIntyre
John McIntyre, mild-mannered editor for a great metropolitan newspaper, has fussed over writers’ work, to sporadic expressions of gratitude, for thirty years. He is The Sun’s night content production manager and former head of its copy desk. He also teaches editing at Loyola University Maryland. A former president of the American Copy Editors Society, a native of Kentucky, a graduate of Michigan State and Syracuse, and a moderate prescriptivist, he writes about language, journalism, and arbitrarily chosen topics. If you are inspired by a spirit of contradiction, comment on the posts or write to him at
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