Freedom from Blog

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Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Atrios contra Cohen

The WaPost's Richard Cohen is taking a lot of deserved heat in Left Blogistan ever since he wrote a couple of dimwitted columns, first attacking Stephen Colbert as a "bully," and then whining when he got thousands of critical responses. Cohen's argument was lame: it is Orwellian to suggest that the "bully" is the guy who stands up alone in a hostile room full of incredibly powerful people and mocks their hypocrisy and deceit. Real bullies puff out their chests and talk big when, surrounded by like-minded friends, they confront a weak and lonely dissenter. George Bush and Bill O'Reilly fit that bill; Colbert does not.

Still, Atrios goes overboard with his expose of Cohen's past sins against liberal good sense ("Richard Cohen's Greatest Hits"). The old columns he cites today, one about how liberals often improperly attribute white apprehension of blacks to "racism," rather than a justifiable fear of prevalent black crime, and a second where Cohen raises doubts about the universal innocence of women in sexual harassment situations, strike me as pretty reasonable. Racism and sexism certainly exist, but let's not pretend that these things are all, forgive the phrase, "black and white." Being oppressed does not make one, ipso facto, morally superior. Victim chic may be particularly prominent on the right wing these days, but it has also had its heyday on the left, one that I might add was deadly for liberal politics. Cohen may be an ass, but he wasn't wrong on this one.


At 12:16 PM, Blogger Frances said...

It was also unduly harsh of Atrios to bring up Cohen's personal issues with sexual harassment claims, also. But I don't really care to defend the man on this or any count; he can find his defenders elsewhere (say, among people who he has not betrayed!). As he put it in one of his Plame scandal columns (exonerating the leakers), "Washington is a rough town."

The columnists who have been appointed to speak for the "left" at the nation's premier news outlets need to get this kind of heat from their readers. They have been more accountable to right wing pressure for YEARS now. If Cohen gets 8,000 emails and his reputation gets roughed up in the process, it's all to the good to my mind.


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