Writers, Please Stop Doing This

by Ramesh Ponnuru

We have all been tempted to do it at one point or another. When something we write draws a lot of criticism, we respond the way Laurie Goodstein of the New York Times does here: “Seems my piece struck a chord, given defensive reaction by the nominee’s allies. . .”

As it happens, the criticisms of Goodstein are right. Her article made a big deal out of appeals-court nominee Amy Coney Barrett’s failure to disclose her membership in a religious group on a questionnaire that didn’t ask about membership in religious groups. But leaving aside the merits, this kind of response–people are criticizing me, so I must have struck a nerve!–is dumb. The fact that people are criticizing an article of yours could mean that you were on to something. Or it could mean that what you said was uninformed, outrageous, or misleading. If you attack someone in a grossly unfair way, yes, her allies will want to defend her from the grossly unfair attack. They’ll be “defensive.” So will people who aren’t her allies but favor intelligent and fair-minded news coverage. Sometimes the chord you strike just rings out that you’re being a jackass.

 

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