Thursday, December 22, 2005

Telling Us What to Think

In today’s Sacramento Bee, an opinion piece by Maureen Dowd (syndicated columnist for the New York Times) predictably bashes the current administration about its most recent snafus. It is not news to anyone who has read any of her columns that she is no fan of the Bush administration. And based on the most recent news from Washington, she has good reason. Also appearing in the paper is a letter to the editor regarding her journalistic style as disrespectful, as evidenced by her disingenuous nicknames for the president and his staff. Perhaps.

But I think it could be criticized more accurately as ineffective. At least it should be. The letter writer states, “Everyone knows how much she dislikes the president.” Indeed, one needs only read a part of one of her columns to get this. And this is the point. Who is she trying to reach? Those who already agree with her? Her column today is long on hyperbole and short on any substantive insight. It’s not even very good satire.

I should take some of it back. I DO read Maureen Dowd and I DO NOT already necessarily agree with her. Oh sure, the current administration is often and repeatedly incompetent, scary, arrogant, ignorant, detached - the list goes on. But I do not actively hate this administration as Ms. Dowd appears to. I have no axe to grind and I certainly do not take their actions personally. Hell, they don’t even know me! So me thinks I may generalize a bit much.

I’m not quite sure whom Maureen Dowd is trying to reach. Who is she trying to convince or sway? How effective is a column that refers to the president as “W” or “Bubble Boy” and the vice president as “Dick” and the Secretary of Defense as “Rummy?” Her bias is blatant. It tells me that she has no intention of any deep thought or consideration regarding an opposing view point that even an opinion piece needs to lend the author any credibility.

Perhaps this is what we like to read today. If Rush Limbaugh’s success is any indication, then there are a significant number of people who only want to hear what they already think they know. They are allowing others to do their thinking for them. I read Ms. Dowd’s column and even occasionally listen to Mr. Limbaugh’s show. It is not uncommon that (based on my own objective analysis) I agree with the substance of what they are saying, but I rarely if ever agree with the delivery. Disrespectful? Yes. But more importantly, a big bright red flag that begs the reader to look beyond the hyperbole.

Mr. Althouse


My Daily Struggles said...

God bless President Bush. SUpport the troops.

Michael K. Althouse said...

Mr. Freedman. What can I say? Oh, I know...YOU'RE WACKED. (It always feels good when I can find just the right words to express myself:-}). But I'm not telling you anything you don't already know. Your thoughts do, however, provide amusement in addition to bemusement. Thank you for that!

Mr. Althouse

carmilevy said...

Nicely put, Mike. I've often read her work and questioned the need to be so in-your-face rude. I much prefer a more subtle approach to delivering my message. The hammer wrapped in a velvet glove approach is so much more satisfying - for writer and reader alike - than the obvious, brute-force one.

I think it says more about her shortcomings as a writer than it does anything else. Just because someone has a plum gig doesn't make her a great writer.