Politics & Policy

The Wikipedia blues, &c.

Got a note from a reader yesterday, saying, “Have you seen your Wikipedia page? FYI, there’s a little gotcha in there about your ignorance of ‘Monica Goodling.’ I never heard of Monica Goodling. Listen, if this is the worst they can pin on you — congratulations.”

My curiosity piqued, I went to Wikipedia, and this is what I read: “In 2009, Nordlinger admitted he did not know who Monica Goodling – a central figure in the controversy over the firing of U.S. Attorneys- was, despite the fact that he was a senior editor of National Review during the scandal.”

Funny old world. I was discussing the U.S.-attorneys scandal with Judge Mukasey not very long ago — July, I think. Let me tell you a bit about how things work these days:

As I said on our Corner a couple of weeks ago, I got this e-mail with no salutation and no signature. It said, “Your memory is either very short or very selective” — and then it gave a link. The e-mail turned out to be from a writer at Salon.com, Glenn Greenwald. The link was to a piece of his, going after me. I wrote him back, saying I’d take a look at what he was doing and make a note of it on the Corner.

His piece was called “Deleting the Bush Personality Cult from history.” And the gist of it was this: Conservatives like Nordlinger were saying that President Obama’s admirers are on the creepy-culty side; but there was a cult of personality around Bush (43), which they were conveniently forgetting — what hypocrites.

I did indeed reply on the Corner — don’t quite know why. First, I had said I would. And second, I wanted to be sporting, I guess. I seldom do much with liberal blogs. (For reasons we could get into.) Anyway, here is that reply. I linked to Greenwald’s piece — here. And I said that I myself had not discerned a cult of personality around Bush: but everyone is entitled to his opinion, or perception.

I also noted that Greenwald dwelled on two figures: Angela Williamson and Monica Goodling, staffers at the Justice Department. They were supposed to be major cultists (or something). Remember that the man had e-mailed me, “Your memory is either very short or very selective.” I said in the Corner that I wasn’t trying to sweep these ladies under the rug: Frankly, I had never heard of them. I certainly didn’t remember them.

But my main point was that I disliked cults of personality, strongly, whether they were from the left or right (or whatever). Civics 101. Kindergarten stuff. That ended the discussion, I thought. But no.

I got several e-mails from Salon.com readers, spilling bile on me, and saying that I had no right to call myself a political journalist, because I had never heard of Williamson and Goodling — especially Goodling. I soon learned that Greenwald himself was saying this; his readers were simply echoing it.

I did not realize that these women were so important (no offense to them, honestly). I thought that the important figure in the U.S.-attorneys thing was Gonzales, and, relatedly, Bush. I didn’t realize that not knowing Monica Goodling was sort of like not knowing FDR, or Machine Gun Kelly.

I still don’t believe it.

Anyway, then came this Wikipedia caper: “Nordlinger admitted . . . despite the fact that he was a senior editor of National Review . . .” Guess I’m just a big ignoramus. And here I thought I knew a fair amount, over a variety of fields! There is a lot I don’t know, true. To borrow my e-mailer’s language — the e-mailer who told me about Wikipedia — there is a lot more, a lot worse, they could “pin” on me. Do you know I’ve never made it through The Odyssey? I am somewhere adrift in the wine-dark sea.

Or is that The Iliad? Haven’t finished that either. Come and get me, copper! Do your worst, Wikipedia-ists!

I guess this is how the world works now. Sort of strange, isn’t it? In National Review last year, we had a piece by JJM (John J. Miller) saying that Wikipedia is something of a liberal fief, where political entries are concerned. I am not in a position to argue with him. And I warn one and all: If you’re thinking about trying to make nice with Salon.com, think twice.

‐On to something pleasanter? Okay. Not sure this is pleasanter, actually — is a little creepy. A reader wrote, “Jay, you may like the headline I just found on CNN.com.” Well, “like” is the word, sort of. The headline: “Obama to pick LAX security chief to head TSA.”

Funny headline — funny/queasy-making. (Memo to lefty itchy-fingers: This is not a political comment I’m making: a language/headliney one. Thank you.)

‐A little more language? Loved a phrase that Toby Young used in his Spectator column. “Throughout the film,” he wrote, “we see [Anna] Wintour [the editor of Vogue] making snap decisions: this dress, not that one, this photo, not that one. She has a whim of iron, which is a constant trial for her staff.”

“Whim of iron” — something to remember.

UPDATE: A reader has written,

Dear Mr. Nordlinger,

Monica Goodling is indeed a nonentity [no offense meant, surely!], but I was surprised you were unaware of the phrase “whim of iron.” I had thought it was something once said about Baroness Thatcher, so I Googled it. 598,000 hits!

Yowza, that’s a lot. Sorry, Toby! Still like it though . . .

‐This almost qualifies as an FAQ — in fact, it does: “Mr. Nordlinger: I’ve enjoyed your ‘Impromptus’ column for years. [I blush.] What does ‘&c.’ mean?”

An old-timey way of saying — of abbreviating — “et cetera.”

‐This is not an FAQ, but a Q: “Jay, I’ve always wondered: How do you pronounce your last name?” She gives a variety of options, then says she has chosen one, which she has always used, and she hopes it is right. It is.

The name is pronounced — at least by my family — NORD-ling-er. The middle syllable is like “sing.” The last two syllables are like “singer” — not like “linger” or “ginger.”

Incidentally, I had a dear, brilliant Russian-born teacher who pronounced the word “singer,” and like words, with a hard “g.”

‐A reader writes, 

Jay,

I was in D.C. over the Labor Day weekend, for a family wedding, and noticed something very interesting on my drive home. At one travel plaza, on the Pennsylvania Turnpike, about three parking spaces right up front, beside the handicapped spots, had signs posted that said, “Reserved for Low-Emission Vehicles Only.” Maybe I’m reading too much into this, but . . .

I get the feeling they’re creating a class system. Meaning, if you drive a low-emission vehicle, you get special treatment, by getting one of the premier parking spaces. They are producing a stigma against driving larger vehicles. Am I crazy or just conspiracy-minded? [I love that!]

My wife’s feeling is maybe they are just trying to keep the smelly diesel trucks away from the front entranceway. I say it’s a slippery slope. Is this the two Americas Mr. Edwards was talking about?

Oh, there are lots of two Americas!

‐In last Thursday’s Impromptus, I had a little item on Ben & Jerry’s. A reader said he agreed with my general position: You should separate politics from food, music, art, etc. But he had to draw a line: and the new Ben & Jerry’s flavor “Hubby Hubby” was his line. I said that I didn’t know where my line might be: but what if the company came up with a flavor celebrating Gulag?

A reader wrote, “So something like ‘Chocolate Goo-lag Marshmallow-pelago’ might be a bridge too far?” Er, yes, exactly.

‐Hey, did you see my item on Thursday about how The Gulag Archipelago has become required reading for Russian high-school students? Marvelous — breathtaking.

‐Been a while since we did Fun with Inscriptions — inscriptions requested for the below-advertised book. The other day, a reader wanted, “You never really win, do you?” He was taking off from that Thursday column, which featured this plaint, or truth. Another reader had a quite funny request. He wanted me to say,

“For Jeff, a devoted reader and fan from the heart of the country, and a man who for over two years did not buy my book because he was too undecided about what he should request for an inscription.”

I think the limit should be one year!

Friends, this must be the most self-referential column I have ever written — which, I know, is saying something. At least it’s on the short side. See you later, less self-referentially. Thanks for tuning in. Watch what you say to Salon.com, or they could do up (down?) your Wikipedia entry.

#JAYBOOK#

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