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May 08, 2006

The Greatest Comparison Ever Compared

It turns out the feelings of Richard Cohen (or as I think of him, "Richard Cohen") were hurt by lots of rude email he got about his column on Stephen Colbert. So he's written YET ANOTHER COLUMN about it. Here's the greatest line:

Institution after institution failed America -- the presidency, Congress and the press. They all endorsed a war to rid Iraq of what it did not have. Now, though, that gullibility is being matched by war critics...

That's the kind of insight that makes Richard Cohen such an esteemed member of the Washington press corps. Not many people would perceive that these things—

(1) lying America into a war that will eventually kill hundreds of thousands and cost a trillion dollars
(2) sending mean emails

—are functionally equivalent. Both, you see, involve matching amounts of "gullibility."

It's at times like these when I sympathize with the alcoholic, scrofulous hacks of Pravda and Izvestia. At least they HAD to write what they did. Richard Cohen does it because he truly believes it.

Posted at May 8, 2006 11:54 PM | TrackBack

I will say that it annoys me greatly when people write to someone in such asinine terms as some of the letters he's apparently gotten. If I knew there were 3000 letters of Jonathan quality in his box, that would be one thing. But it is frustrating to know that at least half of those--ostensibly agreeing with me--were probably so much obnoxious bile.

Posted by: Saheli at May 9, 2006 02:00 AM

Another difference is that those days reading beetwen the lines one could decipher a lot of useful information from a Pravda editorial.

Posted by: abb1 at May 9, 2006 02:03 AM

Oh-- yeah, the obnoxious bile was from me. Sorry, Saheli.

Posted by: Sully at May 9, 2006 02:27 AM

ATR, you didn't mention that he calls himself the victim of a "digital lynch mob," thereby putting himself on the same level as tortured black folks--or maybe just Clarence Thomas (which I guess is fair, considering they were both accused of sexual harrassment).

And, funny, I thought columnists were SUPPOSED to get lots of mail--it meant, by the old cliché, that they were doing their jobs.

Oh, but wait, the people sending the mails are only hurting themselves. So he'll have the last laugh. Wow, what a great humanitarian.

Posted by: Stinky Flamingo at May 9, 2006 05:52 AM

Give Cohen credit. This is a good sentence.

They all endorsed a war to rid Iraq of what it did not have.

In a nutshell.

Posted by: spiiderweb at May 9, 2006 05:53 AM

Cohen's columns are to thought what those little airplane bags of pretzel bits are to food.

Posted by: donescobar at May 9, 2006 07:59 AM

I often wonder if the smart and wealthy members of America's overclass actually believe any of the crazy shit they spout off, especially when it's meant for consumption by the great unwashed masses, etc. There's a story, possibly apocryphal, about how Limbaugh once said something mocking about his audience when he gave a speech, just after he was done and it turned out the mike was still on. Don't you wonder if Cohen believes Cohen?

Posted by: Jonathan Versen at May 9, 2006 08:14 AM

thank you donescobar. perfectly apt.

Posted by: Drindl at May 9, 2006 08:18 AM

The great unwashed read the Metro and Sports sections of the WashPost. Masochists like you and me read Cohen.

Posted by: donescobar at May 9, 2006 08:19 AM

How can you doubt Cohan?
He correctly points out that the extension of the Vietnam War was NOT the fault of Nixon, Nixon's supporters or those chickenhawks who supported the war - it was the fault of those who correctly pointed out that the war was wrong! In the same way, Cohen points out that critisizing Republicans and their "moderate Democrat" enablers aren't responsible for the debacle in Iraq - it's the fault of those of us who opposed invading Iraq before inspections were complete (even if History has proven our side 100% correct).
Of course we should all be quiet and let wise leaders like Senator Clinton and Leiberman make their decisions - they are all so much smarter than we are, even if we are consistantly right and they are concisistantly wrong. We wouldn't want to hurt the feelings of Republicans. Look how appealing to their "angry base" didn't help Republicans in 1994, 2000, 2002 and 2004!

Posted by: Marc at May 9, 2006 08:43 AM

Does Tricky Dicky Cohen actually believe it? He's easily befuddled by subjects like algeeburr and large numbers.

Posted by: An Enquiring Mind at May 9, 2006 08:50 AM

The one predominate eternal fact of YELLOW PRESS is it's ALWAYS YELLOW.

Posted by: Mike Meyer at May 9, 2006 11:08 AM

It's amusing to see the Post and other MSM reacting this way. I can only assume that L'Affaire Colbert and the blogswarms are finally getting through to them just how much contempt many people feel for the MSM. After years of seeing themselves as the righteous cavaliers of the truth, this is probably more than a little bit of cognitive dissonance.

Posted by: Maimonides at May 9, 2006 12:20 PM

the msm should start listening, if not to the individual ranting, then to the phenomenon of thousands of people feeling the need to rant, and they should ask themselves, what does this mean, how are we involved in this apparent need to yell, and why?

This is true, and I wasn't contradicting it, or Jonathan's point. But this seems as good a place as any to say I don't appreciate bile in agrement with me a whole lot more than bile against me. I would feel a lot more smug if I knew he got 3000 Jonathan-style letters.

Posted by: Saheli at May 9, 2006 04:00 PM

quite right, saheli. i've posted elsewhere that, when urging my blog readers to contact other people with complaints or suggestions, always be polite.

the problem with bile, as we see, is that it becomes the focus of the debate, rather than the content that is dripping off of.

Posted by: skippy at May 9, 2006 06:55 PM

If mainstream journalists turn off their email because people use words like "murder," what will politicians do?

Do you think the little old lady down the street will vote Democrat because we get angry?

I'm troubled by what's happening here. Jesus said, "Love your enemies." I think America wants more love, less hate.

Posted by: S at May 9, 2006 07:55 PM

S., I don't know if you realize how the actual world works, but people hold elective offices and other positions of power between (or even during) elections, and they do various things that affect our lives during that time. When we are e-mailing, say, Richard Cohen, we are obviously not affecting the opinion of the lady down the street one way or another -- we are trying to get our voice heard by the elites who actually run things.

You can say that the obnoxious bile isn't the best way to do that, and you would be right in most cases -- but in no way is "love" (at least that demonstrated by Jesus in the actual gospels) incompatible with anger. Do you think people were telling Jesus, "Listen, the lady down the street is never going to vote Christian when you're running around calling Pharisees white-washed tombs"?

Posted by: Adam Kotsko at May 9, 2006 09:07 PM

We need Better Angry Love.

I'm actually totally serious. We need Better Angry Love. We gotta engineer it, optimize it, keep it angry and forceful, yet loving and true. We don't spend enough time honing our angry love skills.

Posted by: Saheli at May 9, 2006 09:35 PM

I suppose mine was one of the emails that hurt his feelings. Boo-hoo.

He had written, quoting a line of Colbert's: "'We're not some brainiacs on nerd patrol,' [Colbert] said. Boy, that's funny."

That wasn't the punch line. i asked why readers should give credence to someone, on the subject of humor, when that person doesn't know what a "punch line" is.

I watched Colbert live. I had tears running down my face by the end. The problem was people were uncomfortable having the Buzz-Kill in Chief sitting ten feet away.

And boo-hoo for the Shrub!! He couldn't take it, poor delicate flower. Wait till he finds himself in Gitmo for war crimes.

Posted by: tommo at May 10, 2006 09:41 AM

"Does anyone know if Richard Cohen exists? This could be a Turing test!"

Yes, I've seen him on the Sunday talking heads. And, yes, it appears to be a Turing test.

Posted by: shep at May 10, 2006 12:42 PM