Wednesday, January 05, 2005

Why I do what I do

Posted by Craig Westover | 8:59 PM |  

Frankly, I’m a little disappointed in Power Line.

I just read Scott Johnson’s very lawyerly dismantling of Nick Coleman. Not much to disagree with there. He’s got Nick cold. And it’s hard to generate much sympathy for Nick, having been on the receiving end of one of his public tirades and a personal email bombast. I honestly think the guy is unstable at best; at worst, a really bitter, foul man. He makes one ashamed to be associated with the term “journalist.”

But it’s also hard, as a blogger, to take any pride in Power Line today. What’s the issue here? Stop and think about. They are fighting with Nick Coleman over comments made because of a magazine award. They are acting like -- well, you know, the guy in the bar who’s hanging on the edge of obnoxious that you just want to punch, but you can just tell he’s got his lawyer’s business card in his back pocket and he’s daring you to hit him?

Power Line -- don’t be that guy.

Why’d you have to run and tattle to his editor? If it was to gather blog material, that’s one thing, but you guys are taking yourselves way to seriously. What we have here is an allegory for what passes for political discourse. There’s no issue at stake here. “Principles” are being swung like weapons, not protected with honor. What’s this battle really about? . . . Them.

It’s about Power Line. It’s about Nick Coleman. Who’s gonna win? Who gets the last laugh? Who makes the other guy crawl? And then what happens? What’s the prize? It’s certainly not elevated stature on either side. It’s a victory by attrition. Victory by body count with no ground gained.

Like I said, I had my battle with Nick. I gave him some shots. Can’t say I didn’t enjoy it. But there was also some purpose to it. When the dust clears, maybe, just maybe, we’ll be a little closer to parental school choice, a little closer real educational opportunity for low-income kids and a little closer to focusing on kids instead of a system, politics, and egos. Maybe we'll be a little closer to understand what's really important.

I received a lot of blog support in my battle with Nick, which I sincerely appreciate. Much of it, however, was “way to rip that bastard a new one” praise. But some, well, some was pretty special -- like the email below from “a casual blog reader.” I’ve been thinking about this while I’ve been writing, and I think it’s the truth, but you know what -- I don’t think I’d trade this email to be “Blog of the Year“ -- at least not today after reading Power Line.


I sent the message below a couple of weeks ago, to which you sent a brief response. In it you made the point that this is about the kids, not yourself or your protagonist, Mr. Coleman. That point has been emphasized in spades in your response to the guy who questioned your stance in a letter to the editor. Forgive me, I can't recall the guy's name.

Now I would like to offer up moral support a second time, and this time for different reasons. You are spot on in your contention that the kids should come first, and year after year of them failing to be educated in a manner adequate to the demands of the modern world is an outrage. Adults who want to primp and preen and make lots of noise about who is more concerned or compassionate are just NUTS.

My admiration for your fencing skills with Coleman is rooted in the simple respect for thought, reason, and the ability to argue rationally for a point of view. This is generally the strong suit of the right, in my opinion, since many on the left often believe that feelings or intention trump all outcomes or measures of evidence.
In this case, however, I give you an even stronger nod for throwing yourself into the task of defending your arguments, for the sake of the children. You have effectively won the debate with Coleman, in my view. It would be very easy to simply disregard the additional challenge of your reader. This is certainly what Coleman would do. He has never answered any of my emails, and his personal emails which I have been able to view online have been dismissive and filled with shallow sniping. Kind of like his columns.

I have to note that when you chose to address your reader's challenge, it would have been easy to provide a brief and succinct response. You have chosen instead to answer the man in depth, point by point, providing supporting sources of information for anyone wanting to further study the issue. I don't know if you realize what a tremendous service you are providing the public by doing this. There are many folks out here who are dissatisfied with the public schools' performance, and who have a gut feeling that there must be other options. We may even have developed a support for 'school choice'. But most of us lack your overview of the problem, and awareness of the logistics of trying to remedy it. Your publishing ideas of an acknowledged expert, and detailed responses to challenges with reasoned argument and explanation represent the best of what both traditional journalism and the new alternative medium of the blogosphere have to offer. Especially so because the ultimate aim of your going the extra mile is to defend and provide for the needs of the young. Their needs are our charge, and once again my hat is off to you sir.
All the best in 2005.
Now you know why I do what I do.

UPDATE: I hope it's true --

From Power Line this AM

HINDROCKET adds: Many readers have written to us over the last few days, expressing support in the wake of the Minneapolis Star Tribune's attack on us and appreciation of our coverage of that story. A much smaller, but still considerable, number of readers have expressed annoyance with our commentary on the column that Nick Coleman wrote about us, and the Star Tribune's response to our complaints. Most of these emails have pointed out that Coleman is an obscure local columnist whom few of our readers have even heard of, and have urged us to get back to covering national and international news. Many of them have pointed out that we have far more readers than Mr. Coleman does.

This is true. Nevertheless, our discussion of the Strib's attack on us is not just a personal "wrestling match with a pig," as more than one reader has termed it. This is, in our view, a paradigmatic episode that exposes the mainstream media's bias, arrogance, willful inaccuracy, and resistance to correction. The fact that it involves us, and a columnist who can charitably be described as second rate, is really secondary. The issue is an institutional one. What is on display here is the viciousness, the arrogance, and the cluelessness of mainstream media when confronted with a challenge to its monopoly power. On that basis, the story is well worth covering.
Indeed, that story is worth covering. The challenge for Power Line is to make that issue clear and not fog it with focus on Coleman. He has proved "the useful idiot," now on to the issue.