Frank Rich and the State of Liberal Commentary
The New York Times columnist offers insults in the guise of thought.


Dennis Prager

If one had to read one columnist to appreciate the state of contemporary left-wing commentary, my nomination would be Frank Rich of the Sunday New York Times.

No well-known columnist better exemplifies the worst aspects of today’s Left. Virtually every piece is filled with anger, filled with ad hominem responses to arguments, filled with insults of opponents, and at the same time devoid of arguments. A Frank Rich column is essentially a weekly tantrum meant to make his readers nod in agreement and reinforce their contempt for those who differ with them.

I offer this past Sunday’s column as an example.

The subject was the “don’t ask, don’t tell” (DADT) policy regarding gays in the military.

Not a single serious argument from proponents of DADT was cited, nor did Rich offer a single argument in behalf of repealing it. Instead, the article was a smear of all who support retaining that policy or the male-female definition of marriage. The article contains 71 sentences. Twelve contain an insult. I suspect that the many Times readers who love Rich’s columns — this was listed as the second most e-mailed piece — generally read them to have their hatreds reinforced, not for cogent arguments.

The article’s title is, appropriately, an insult: “Smoke the Bigots Out of the Closet.”

It is commonplace for liberals and leftists to avoid refuting conservative arguments and just dismiss conservatives with one of seven epithets: “racist,” “bigoted,” “sexist,” “intolerant,” and the three phobias, “homophobic,” “xenophobic,” “Islamophobic.”

Such ad hominem dismissals of conservatives and their arguments testify to the shallowness of those using these terms, meaning, unfortunately, most mainstream commentators and spokesmen on the left. The fact is that epithets substitute for thought — and at the same time render it easy to write a left-wing column. It is the Frank Rich Formula: make believe the other side has no thoughtful argument, offer no argument of your own, and debase your opponents.

Some examples from just this one column:

Rich: “. . . there is now little political advantage to spewing homophobia . . .”

Rich: [CNN allowed conservative spokesmen to express] “old homophobic clichés.”

Rich: “Such arguments . . . are mere fig leaves to disguise the phobia that can no longer dare speak its name. . . . The flimsy rhetorical camouflage must be stripped away to expose the prejudice that lies beneath.”


Sign up for free NRO e-mails today:

NRO Polls on LockerDome

Subscribe to National Review