I’m not all that interested in in the details of John Burns’ response to critics of his somewhat critical profile of war-critic Julian Assange, but I did think this was interesting:
Burns said he doesn’t “recall ever having been the subject of such absolutely, relentless vituperation” following a story in his 35 years at the Times. He said his email inbox has been full of denunciations from readers and a number of academics at top-tier schools such as Harvard, Yale, and MIT. Some, he said, used “language that I don’t think they would use at their own dinner table.” Such heated reactions to the profile, Burns said, shows “just how embittered the American discourse on these two wars has become.”
I think this shows less about American discourse on these wars than it does about how isolated from criticism writers at prestigious journalistic outlets have traditionally been. I don’t think American discourse about parking regulation or the definition of insider trading or the wisdom of consumption vs income taxes has become particularly embittered in recent years. Nevertheless, some of the responses I get over email and in comments to my posts on those subjects gets extremely vituperative.
A lot of people just like to be vituperative on the Internet. What’s more, for any given stance you can take on a political issue there’s always going to be someone who disagrees with you. For example, yesterday I found out that someone thinks Robert Greenwald is a huge sellout who recently “revealed himself as the sort of mendacious but quotidian monster who belongs lumped in with [Ezra] Klein, Yglesias, McArdle and Krauthammer. A real embodiment of the Compleat Suck. Someone I’d introduce to Guevara with the evidence in hand.” Weird, huh?
Well at least I think it’s weird. But it’s the world we live in and I suspect it’s the world we’ve always been living in, but the advent of modern communications technology makes other people’s reactions to your work much easier to find.