STOP ME IF YOU'VE heard this already. But there are people out there -- honest, decent, sincere people and deranged moonbats, too -- who think that George W. Bush lied about the threat posed by Saddam Hussein. No, seriously, it's true.
OK, let's stop right there. You might think this would be a good time to fisk the column in entirety; quite frankly, though, it is a rather pedestrian Jonah Goldberg submission. Goldberg is truly the George W. Bush of punditry -- installed in his chosen field through the graces of his mother, noted right-wing voice Lucianne Goldberg, from whom Jonah inherited much of his rather inexplicable world viewpoints, but none of her omnipresent, easy vitriol or difficult-to-parody panache.
I want to talk about something else. Specifically, I want to talk about the words deranged moonbats, and the editorial goals and standards of the Los Angeles Times.
We got precisely into the second sentence of the first piece of Jonah Goldberg's first column before devolution into talk of "deranged" non-honest, non-decent, non-sincere opponents. From there, we slide into nothing better. We are told, in so many words, that the speeches about mushroom clouds and African uranium never happened; that the State of the Union address was a figment of our imaginations so powerful that it imprinted itself onto the videotapes of the world through our collective, "deranged" wills; and yet at the same time, that Saddam Hussein was a Hitlerian figure who posed such a serious threat to our nation that historians should be "forgiving of deceit".
In short, Goldberg cannot even keep a consistency of his most basic premise -- whether the war was about WMDs and preemption, or whether such talk of WMDs and preemption is "deranged" -- even between his own shabbily constructed paragraphs. Talk of the derangement of his opponents is perhaps, then, premature.
We are entering a time when conservatives, after having repeatedly shoved the discourse of the country into a series of ever-deeper ravines via the likes of Rush Limbaugh, Ann Coulter, Michael Savage, Michelle Malkin and an unending stream of similar though lesser clones, are now professing outrage that they are being attacked according to the same crude, boorish standards that they have made part and parcel of their movement. While I, as a blogger, could not possibly care less about their belated protestations of civility, I will admit to the Los Angeles Times right here and now, as a reader, that I expect a level of discourse greater than that low mark in the objective, non-partisan press -- even in the editorial section.
There is a difference between the level of debate worthy of Internet blogs, and the level of debate worthy of one of the nation's largest and most respected newspapers. Chief among those differences would be the relevance of declaring opponents "deranged moonbats". During the last Democratic National Convention, Ann Coulter managed to get one of her columns axed from USA Today because the majority of her insights consisted of, among other things, paragraphs describing herself and fellow Republicans as "prettier" than the Democratic participants, observations that many of the featured speakers should have been put in cages, and declarations calling the Democrats the "French Party".
The Los Angeles Times would have done well to follow the example.
In the end, the Los Angeles Times, as with every other paper in the nation, has a basic decision to make. What is the purpose of editorial content? Is it meant to educate readers? To debate issues? To provide new, original ideas that cannot or will not be presented by the politically powerful? To attack? Or simply as masturbatory fodder for those few readers who treat their political affiliations with the all-encompassing fervor that they treat sports franchises, less concerned with either education, debate, knowledge or accuracy than with half-drunken taunts at the opposing team?
Columns like Goldberg's -- not merely vapid according to the usual standards of embedded political apologists everywhere, but boring, trite and unimaginative even within that already shabby, inbred world -- serve none of these purposes, save perhaps the last. I wonder, then, at the possible motivations for giving yet another tedious political hack yet another audience with readers who are, in the majority, both more honest and more intelligent than he is.
The Los Angeles Times has every right to devolve. But in raising deranged moonbats as the level of discourse that they now deem as deserving of offering up to their readers, they do their readers -- and the industry in general -- a disservice. There may come a point when internet blogs and national editorial pages converge on the same tenor, respectability, and quality of voice; I, for one, was hoping that it would not be the national editorial pages that would sink in order to meet the worst of the lot halfway.
In all bluntness, to the editors of the Los Angeles Times: that I, as a blogger, can understand the differences between random partisan blog posts and the quality of debate deserving of wider publication, and adjust my own writing to respect and accommodate either -- and that Jonah Goldberg, apparently, cannot -- should give you even greater insight into the qualities of discourse that you see fit to highlight as an alleged leading voice of the conservative movement.
This episode marks another low point in the ongoing dissolution of the editorial integrity of the Los Angeles Times. Let us hope they treat their readers, in the immediate future, with less abject and condescending contempt.