In the Washington Post yesterday, the Washington Post’s Sunday “Outlook” section included an op-ed in which Lawrence Downes, a former member of the New York Times editorial board, enthusiastically wrote about his new pastime:
[I have] right-wing culture war books from the Fox-News-angry-White-person’s superhero universe. Besides Hannity, I’ve got Lou Dobbs, Michelle Malkin, Ann Coulter, Laura Ingraham, Rudy Giuliani and Bernie Kerik. The list is not comprehensive. It includes Karl Rove and Hugh Hewitt but not Newt Gingrich, Tucker Carlson or Donald Trump…The Fox folks seemed so bilious and out of place in that pleasant company, like toadstools among the daffodils. So I’d buy them up and take them home. Not for reading, which brought no pleasure, but for quarantine. The books are dispatches from a phony war, the one Rupert Murdoch and Roger Ailes helped gin up and got obscenely rich on. If you believe, as I do, that the plutocrat propagandists of Fox, talk radio and the GOP are lying liars who have vandalized our politics and country, then finding a Hannity or Ingraham book is like finding one of their bricks. The books piled up in my basement, out of circulation (which was the point) but always naggingly present, like asbestos. I wanted to be rid of them. And yet I paused, because even contemplating destroying books felt terrible…
I hit on the answer…. About once a week, I tear them into strips. I add them to the coffee grounds, potato and carrot peelings, onion and avocado skins, asparagus stubs, the papery bits of garlic, eggshells and dead flowers, and let the worms do the rest…
Turning propaganda into worm castings is not going to measurably reduce the amount of Fox News-iness in the environment. It is not strictly necessary. But if Hannity and company want to keep telling us that we are all at war, to keep stoking the flames and fanning the fear, then, for the good of this country, the people we love, the democracy we might lose and the world we want, so be it.
What’s going on here?
Is this supposed to be a humorous article, mocking sufferers of Stage Five Trump Derangement? I don’t think mocking those with emotional problems at such length is funny.
Is Downes so far gone that he thinks there is a meaningful distinction between burning books he disagrees with and mulching them? There isn’t, you know. Isn’t “quarantining” books one disagrees with exactly what those who pull “Huckleberry Finn” off library shelves are doing?
If his objection to the books is that they are “propaganda,” why are only the books written by conservatives being mulched? I read one such book a long time ago; I think it was by Ann Coulter. Yes, it was a one way hate-orgy about Bill Clinton, not one of my favorite Presidents, and I quit after two chapters. Such books are only useful for making people who have already made up their minds happy. They aren’t informative, because they leave out any facts that don’t advance the narrative. It’s like reading only one side’s brief in a Supreme Court case. The books from leftist warriors are no better: Bill Maher, Rachel Maddow, Dan Rather, Lawrence O’Donnell, and the rest. I would read Bill Clinton’s autobiography because he was a President, but all autobiographies are propaganda in their own way. Hillary’s book was no different as a genre from the one-sideed rants of Maddow or Hannity. No, Downes only wants to destroy books that advocate particular ideas and opinions he objects to, and he believes that it is virtuous to prevent others from reading them. What do we call that?
Does Downes think trumpeting conduct demonstrating pure hate is virtuous? Isn’t this exactly how public discourse has turned so rancid? Isn’t this just a symbolic equivalent of what the antifa does, punching those they disagree with in the face?
Why would the Washington Post publish such a sick, ethically-warped piece? There is literally nothing substantive here, no opinions backed up with facts or arguments, just insults and name-calling. Downes usually writes for the Times—did this screed even fail to meet that paper’s standards? Why isn’t the paper embarrassed—for its ideological clones, for its field, for itself?