I don’t often respond to Conor Friedersdorf, usually because it would require me to read him, and to be honest I don’t quite get the appeal of a guy who writes so portentously that you wonder if it’s some Guinness Book of Records stunt for the World’s Most Tightly Wound Bow Tie.
Evidently, my old friends at The Atlantic Monthly feel differently. From that perch, Mr Friedersdorf takes issue with my observations on “honor killings”, and has written to NR’s editors demanding a “correction”. The executive honchos in turn passed his demand on to me, and suggested I take a look at it as they’d been unable to get through it. So help me, I’d rather be fired – or honor-killed – than have to plough through another Friedersdorf post, but here goes.
So here’s how my piece began:
When you look at all the formulaic sludge that wins the Pulitzer Prize for Most Unread Multipart Series, it is striking that not one of the major newspapers has done an investigative series on the proliferation of “honor killings”, not in Yemen or Waziristan but in the heart of the western world.
In other words, Phyllis Chesler and I are writing about how “honor killings” have migrated from the distant horizon to The New York Times’ backyard. All the examples she and I cite and link to are from North America. That’s what we’re writing about: Dead Muslim women in New York, Illinois, Texas, Quebec. Our neighbors.
Conor Friedersdorf demolishes our argument by pulling up yellowing Times thumbsuckers from ten years ago about “honor killings” in the Arab world, Turkey, Pakistan – and, eventually, Berlin.
I think Friedersdorf, in his usual pedantic way, has not refuted my point but reinforced it: The Times was more enthusiastic about covering “honor killings” when they were way out on the fringes of the map and could be used for a distant anthropological study of remote tribal cultures. Now they’re happening down the block in Buffalo, Peoria and Kingston, Ontario, and raise complicating questions for the prevailing pieties on diversity, multiculturalism, immigration, assimilation et al, questions for which most of the liberal press has no stomach.
So, no, there won’t be a “correction”. I’ll stand by what I wrote, this morning and last year:
If there were a Matthew Shepard murder every few months, Frank Rich et al would be going bananas about the “climate of hate” in our society, but you can run over your daughter, decapitate your wife, drown three teenage girls and a polygamous spouse, and progressive opinion and the press couldn’t give a hoot. Indeed, as The Atlantic notes, it’s merely an obsession of us right-wing kooks.
Why aren’t Noor Almaleki and Aasiya Hassan as famous as Matthew Shepard? They weren’t in up-country villages in the Pakistani tribal lands. They were Americans – and they died because they wanted to live as American women.
Ah-ha! says Friedersdorf, triumphantly. But The New York Times ran a piece on honor killings in Syria in 2007!
Oh, well, everything’s fine and dandy then…
[UPDATE: Friedersdorf's colleague, The Atlantic's Chief Obstetrician, thinks my post is evidence of "epistemic closure" on the right. Ah, yes. Because nothing says "closed-minded conservative bubble" like a right-wing racist sexist loon worrying about the murders of brown women.]
[UPPERDATE: Dumb and dumber. The 2009 NYT piece Friedersdorf cities as evidence that the Times does so totally cover domestic "honor killings" is, in fact, the self-same piece Miss Chesler and I cite, in which the Times pooh-poohs the notion that the decapitation of a Muslim woman in Buffalo counts as an "honor killing". Maybe one of his many editors could explain to Friedersdorf that there's more to argument than just running your search terms through Nexis. Even being a snippy dweeb requires a certain amount of finesse.]