‘Our Book Review Section Always Features An Interview With A Literary Figure Or Book-Loving Celebrity, But We Couldn’t Find One This Week, So We Used A Semi-Literate Celebrity Who Obviously Hardly Reads At All’

Because we’re the New York Times, and we can get away with anything.

One of my goals in life is to leave a legacy of indisputable evidence that America’s self-declared “paper of record” has devolved into an irresponsible hack publication that makes its readers biased and misinformed, while dragging down all of American journalism in the process.

This week’s Times Book Review interview was with the Coal Miner’s Daughter herself, Loretta Lynn. She is a great artist and an iconic figure in her field, but she has as much business holding forth on literature as I have talking about curling. The interview is like a Bob and Ray routine:

What books are on your nightstand? “My family Bible.”

What’s the last great book you read? “I am loving those audiobooks. The older you get, the worse your eyesight becomes…”

Are there any classic novels that you only recently read for the first time? “Doesn’t the Bible count here?”

What’s your favorite book no one else has heard of? “Johnny Cash’s ‘Man in White.’”

Have any books influenced your development as a writer or musician? (She ducks the question.)

Which genres do you especially enjoy reading? And which do you avoid? (She ducks the question.)

Who is your favorite fictional hero or heroine? Your favorite antihero or villain? “I really don’t have one.”

You’re organizing a literary dinner party. Which three writers, dead or alive, do you invite? “I wouldn’t….”

…and so on in that pattern. It’s cruel of the Times, it’s embarrassing to Lynn, and she shouldn’t be placed in that position. I don’t care that Lynn, who was married before high school, isn’t a reader, but representing her as a book-lover in the Times Book Review is as misleading as it is foolish.

What a great newspaper.

Election Day Ethics Warm-Up, But Mostly What Yesterday’s Warm-Up Would Have Been If My Whole Day Hadn’t Spun Wildly Out Of Control…

Good Morning, Voters!

1. From the “bias makes you stupid” files. Yesterday two smart, once reasonable Massachusetts lawyers of the female persuasion debated me regarding the appropriateness of Dr. Blasey Ford’s late and unsubstantiated hit on Brett Kavanaugh. They were obnoxious about it, too, rolling their eyes and giggling to each other at my position, with one saying that I sounded like her “Southern friends.” I like them both, but a better example of how bias makes you stupid could hardly be devised. Their primary reason why Blasey Ford’s suddenly recalled trauma from the distant past should have been allowed to smear a qualified nominee for the Supreme Court in nationally televised hearings was this: women and girls in those les-enlightened days had good reason not to report rape and sexual assault, as they often were not believed and because a “boys will be boys” attitude prevailed in the culture. Moreover, they said, almost in unison, women still have good reasons not to report sexual assault. “Do you have daughters?” they asked, “gotcha!”-style.

To anyone whose ethics alarms are in good working order and who recognizes the difference between an emotional argument born of gender and partisan alliances and a good one, the rebuttal is obvious and comprises a general ethics principle:

One person’s misfortune, no matter how tragic or unjust, never justifies being unfair or unjust to somebody else.

Accusing anyone of anything three decades after the alleged incident is unfair.

Publicizing an allegation that cannot be verified and for which there is no supporting evidence is unfair.

Using alleged misconduct as a minor to impugn the character  of an adult and a professional with an unblemished record of good conduct is unfair.

Dispensing with a presumption of innocence under any circumstances is unfair.

Dispensing with due process under any circumstances is unfair, because due process is itself fairness. (The two lawyers kept saying that this was not a trail so due process was not involved. The argument is either disingenuous or ignorant. Due process just means procedural fairness, in any context.)

Punishing one individual male for the fact that other males have escaped accountability for sexual misconduct is unfair-–and illogical.

Giving special considerations to one individual female because other females have been unfairly treated regarding their allegations is unfair—and illogical.

The two female lawyers kept saying that my position is a conservative one. It is not. It is not an ideological position in any way, though their position certainly is. May they regain intellectual integrity soon. And I forgive them for being so utterly insulting during our debate.

2. This is essentially a Big Lie argument from Vox: Ezra Klein, Vox creator, tweeted,

I don’t think people are ready for the crisis that will follow if Democrats win the House popular vote but not the majority. After Kavanaugh, Trump, Garland, Citizens United, Bush v. Gore, etc, the party is on the edge of losing faith in the system (and reasonably so).

An esteemed commenter recently accused me of being unfairly dismissive and insulting when a commenter dissents. That’s occasionally true but not generally true, and one circumstance where I may become dismissive and insulting is when a position is indefensible, like this one. It is either dishonest or so obtuse that no one capable of writing it down should be trusted again. Continue reading