Man Without Qualities

Sunday, May 12, 2002

Who Will Rid Me of This Meddlesome Blogger?

There was recently some discussion in the blogosphere about pseudonymous blogs, such as this one. The arguments made then in favor of such blogs were largely hypothetical.

But Andrew Sullivan describes a truly awful career plunge which would not have happened to him if his blog had been operated under a strict pseudonym:

"If, like me, you both write for the mainstream media and also snarl at it on a regular basis, some editors can take revenge and cut you off. Most of the time, people in big media, being journalists, don't mind criticism, especially from a piddling one-man blog. But others take offense, and you get canned. In my case, I have been barred indefinitely from writing any more for the New York Times Magazine. Although I have long had a fantastic relationship with the editors there, and have written some of my best journalism for them, their boss, Howell Raines, has sent down a ruling. My presence in the Times, I'm told, makes him "uncomfortable," and I am off limits for the indefinite future. A great sadness to me, but completely his editorial prerogative and, given the sharpness of some of my broadsides, understandable. I'm lucky I have other outlets - and this blog of course! - but it does tend to show that the notion that new media and old media are effortlessly complementary is not completely true. When you bite the hand that feeds you, sometimes you'll get a good slapping. But don't worry. I'll keep biting."

Of course, not using his own name would have meant not being able to take credit for all the cool things he puts in his blog - at least outside the blogosphere. That's a high price. But, then, the reason people like Howell Raines are such terrible human beings is that they insist on imposing such prices. There are many, many such terrible people out there.

On a related point, Mr. Sullivan has sufficient stature that I very much doubt that Mr. Raines made this decision or indulged his discomfort without first consulting "Pinch". In fact, not nearly enough scrutiny is given to "Pinch's" likely role generally in the increasingly apparent across-the-board declines at the Times in standards, ethics and - as seen in Mr. Sullivan's case - decency.

For what it’s worth: I wager on the average of Mickey Kaus’ choices "b" and “c” – Raines will do approximately nothing. My guess is that Mr. Raines and “Pinch” are far too bloated now with the Times’ seven Pulitzers to see any need for even a token offering to Mr. Sullivan. I say "approximately" because I also think that Raines and “Pinch” will order up some kind of hunt for the “leaker” at the Times, but it will be too low-key to meet Captain Queeg’s standards.

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