Richard Cohen of the *Washington Post* laments today of the deluge of emails he received regarding a recent op-ed of his wherein he criticized Stephen Colbert’s performance at the White House Correspondents’ dinner. Most of the emails, Cohen notes, vituperated. And on account of all of the criticism he received, he concludes that the “left” runs a serious risk of blowing their advantage.
That would be a fine argument if only it had premises. For immediately after claiming this, Cohen writes:
>Truth to tell, I peeked into only a few of the e-mails.
And so he completely undermines his own thesis. The rest of the column confuses the criticism of a few crazies with the very real and intellectually substantial opposition to the policies of the current administration, not to mention, by the way, the behavior of the media in accommodating the administration’s views and the arguments. Cohen ought to know that everyone who stands up in public and pronounces on sensitive topics (such as sports, food, movies or perhaps even religious or political views) invites criticism. Some of this criticism will be silly; it will attack the person rather than the argument. Such criticism, when not offered by a serious person or a political administration, should be ignored.
Despite not either facing the real criticism of his performance (*if* there was any) or properly framing the pointless *ad hominem* attacks, Cohen charges on and draws the following comparison:
>The hatred is back. I know it’s only words now appearing on my computer screen, but the words are so angry, so roiled with rage, that they are the functional equivalent of rocks once so furiously hurled during antiwar demonstrations. I can appreciate some of it. 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 who are so hyped on their own sanctimony that they will obliterate distinctions, punishing their friends for apostasy and, by so doing, aiding their enemies. If that’s going to be the case, then Iraq is a war its critics will lose twice — once because they couldn’t stop it and once more at the polls.
Let’s get this straight. Cohen concludes that the gullibility of the people whose email he hasn’t read and whose arguments don’t amount to anything compares to the behavior of the institutions that have failed America. That’s just astounding.
If Cohen wants to argue that leftist vitriol is hurting America, then he should do two things: (a) examine the evidence of actual public and prevalent leftist arguments and (b) compare it in quality and in quantity to rightist vitriol. If he did this, no one would wonder why the crazy behavior of a few emailing lefties compares to that of the government and its supporters on the internet, radio and television.