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.

5 thoughts on “Criticism”

  1. Well, to be fair, I think a few thousand emails calling me an idiot would get me riled up too, and I’m a pretty reasonable guy.

  2. “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 would rather have thousands of angry words on a computer screen than thousands dead in a needless war.

  3. The “unfunny” charges against Colbert’s vicious satire are the lamest response to what apparently many supporters (from vituperous to to just plain righteously indignant) find to be a gutsy and laudable act of political expression that never gets within one hundred yards of any televised presidential event. The organizers of the correspondents dinner just as well might have invited Noam Chomsky to deliver a speech, and now they have to live with their stupid decision that allowed a dangerous commentator into the discourse, who so adroitly exposed the hypocrisy and vacuous insipidity of the Bush administration that the stunned herd animals watched in disbelief and horror–their only recourse to write (days later of course) of the “unfunny” performance.

    I am in no position to directly comment on the true intent of Colbert’s speech, but to me it seemed that Colbert himself was shocked that anyone would allow him that close to the president and a TV camera at the same time. Did anyone watch his show before signing him to this gig?! Colbert said what every American disgusted with the Bush agenda would have liked to say in his place, and he did it under the pretense of humor and satire, an avenue which has become the only sanctioned popular expression of dissent in American politics today. As such, its easy to write off the message as mere jokes, when the content of the jokes speaks more truth than any political speech ever can.

    As for the idiotic hate e-mail sent to Colbert’s detractors: welcome to the world of the internet. As Dr. Casey has remarked in the past, the internet is the Ring of Gyges. But the vitriol Cohen has been witness to is in many ways more real and relevant than the mainstream media commentaries, with their subtle dismissals of the growing resentment and mistrust in the collusion between media and politics.

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