If you haven’t read this morning’s Wall Street Journal op-ed by Paul Mulshine of the Newark Star-Ledger, “All I Wanted for Christmas Was a Newspaper”, it’s just the kind of arrogant-clueless screed by a newspaperman against the blogosphere that elicits first anger, then pity.
These opinion columns are nothing new. See David Simon’s disproportionate contempt for bloggers for an example of someone who managed to succeed after taking a buyout yet is still consumed by the subject. Such columns have long been a symptom of the industry’s steady decline, but as it slips into precipitous free fall, schadenfreude has given way to Willy Loman-esque pathos. I’ve never found Ol’ Gil from The Simpsons all that funny, in part because he was a poor replacement for Lionel Hutz, but also because it’s no fun to watch the helpless fail and flail.
Still, that does not mean the poverty of their arguments should be excused, especially because they are the squeakiest wheels in this dilapidated machine, and their erroneous conclusions may well be adopted by those watching from a short distance. So far Glenn Reynolds at Instapundit and Robert Ivan at Metaprinter have ably pointed out the many flaws in his piece, but I’d like to tackle another. Here is Mulshine making an elitist argument that is not prima facie incorrect, but is nevertheless undone by its own careless construction:
In his book, “An Army of Davids,” Mr. Reynolds heralds an era in which “[m]illions of Americans who were in awe of the punditocracy now realize that anyone can do this stuff.”
No, they can’t. Millions of American can’t even pronounce “pundit,” or spell it for that matter. On the Internet and on the other form of “alternative media,” talk radio, a disliked pundit has roughly a 50-50 chance of being derided as a “pundint,” if my eyes and ears are any indication.
The type of person who can’t even keep track of the number of times the letter “N” appears in a two-syllable word is not the type of person who is going to offer great insight into complex issues.
All right, well this question about usage of “pundit” vs. “pundint” is easily testable. Let’s go to Google BlogSearch:
Already we can see that Mulshine should have chosen a different word to illustrate the alleged ignorance of Internet political commentators. Thanks to those like Instapundit, the word has enjoyed a strong currency in recent years, perhaps more so than any word besides “meme”.
Remember, these are not necessarily the savviest bloggers (let alone, strictly, bloggers), just those which (the increasingly unreliable) BlogSearch coughed up first.
As someone who tries to anticipate likely objections while writing, I can’t imagine doing as Mulshine does and simply assuming that others would willingly accept one’s personal impressions as empirical evidence. A quick Internet search reveals his example as, charitably, an exaggeration.
Not only is he wrong, even if he was right it wouldn’t be the damning evidence he thinks it is. In fact, I read a newspaper column two weeks ago that replaced the common phrase “to the … manor born” with the malaprop “to the … manner born.” A mental slip-up of this sort is indeed careless. It may mean the columnist (it was Kathleen Parker) should be scrutinized more closely, but it does not mean that newspaper columnists should be dismissed out of hand.
Smart people make common errors all the time. And Mulshine certainly seems to be among them them.
Instapundit readers 7, Blog P.I. 3: Everyone in the comments (and now Glenn, too) is right about the Shakespeare quote. I didn’t realize the phrase I knew came from the title of a British sitcom, To The Manor Born, a pun on the Shakespeare line. Would it hurt or help my cause to mention I’m an English major?