[Fwd: Re: NYP and its writers]

Katha Pollitt kpollitt at thenation.com
Sat Nov 13 19:29:56 PST 1999

Steve Perry wrote:
> Katha Pollitt wrote:
> >I like David Corn too, but I think he's making a mistake writing for
> >NYP. It certainly isn't increasing his visibility, reputation,production
> >of influential writing-- or number of sane readers either!
> the phrase that sticks out is "production of influential writing."
> what could be less influential at this point than writing for mags
> like the nation, the progressive, in these times, or mother jones,
> small-circ publications whose reader base consists largely of
> the very people most predisposed to agree with writers on the left?
> i should add--and pardon my primitivism--that i think any worthy
> measure of "influence" should include the effort to speak to those
> who are not already part of the choir.

Well, I certainly agree that writing for the left press one reaches a small audience--that's one reason I write for other places too, as all nation writers do. But opinion journals are not just about influencing their readers,they're about shaping a debate within a political tendency and about influencing the larger public debate by focusing arguments in one place. The Weekly Standard has a small readership , but it's had a huge influence because it makes a particular strand of rightwing politics visible in a way it wasn't before. Of course, it helps to have rupert Murdoch as your publisher!

But the question on the table is not so much whether one should write at all for rightwing papers but how much one should identify with them (an occasional Op-Ed or news story like jeff wrote about the racist cop is different than a column). And then there is the question of what one writes there. How attacking the left in a rightwing paper expands the influence of the left is mysterious to me--why not attack the Right in a rightwing paper? why attack the nation in NYP but NEVER NYP in the Nation (or anywhere else)? Seems to me Alex does not challenge the preconceptions of his NYP readers as much as he panders to their spleen and self-satisfaction--their image of themselves as macho iconoclasts.

I have many differences with Christopher Hitchens, but I think he does a much better job of challenging his readers' preconceptions in his Vanity Fair column -- for instance, he writes in a serious and passionate and really informed way about the death penalty, which for VF's complacent don'tbothermeI'mmakingmoney readers is probably a mental stretch. By contrast, Alex used the execution of Karla Faye Tucker to bash the liberal women's movement (and give Pat Robertson a bouquet -- although robertson is virulently pro-death penalty and only made an exception for tucker because she was a bornagain. If she'd found Moses instead of jesus he'd have given her the lethal injection himself!). What Alex didn't do is say ANYTHING that would make a pro-deathpenalty reader think again or someone who didn't care question their indifference.


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