The Corner


Can Isaac Chotiner Read?

Isaac Chotiner thinks he’s caught Jim Geraghty in a double standard. He hasn’t. Instead, he’s merely demonstrated that he can’t — or, more likely, won’t — read.

Last night, Chotiner tweeted out screenshots of Jim’s recent column on not speaking ill of the dead, and then contrasted that column with screenshots of Jim criticizing Ted Kennedy:

Chotiner followed this series up with the submission that, “Obviously, Ted Kennedy should have been ripped for this before and after his death. These fake arguments that no one is consistent about are boring.”

Being British (originally), I have much less of a problem with writers immediately torching the dead than does Jim. But to call Jim’s thoughtful argument “fake” and to propose that he wasn’t “consistent” is cheap and untrue. In his piece, Jim explicitly wrote:

The American version of the custom really only asks people to refrain from expressing their disdain for the departed in public for a short period of time after the death. No one really cares if you privately get grim satisfaction out of someone departing this earth, and there will be few complaints if you uncork your long-simmering denunciatory diatribe about the departed a month later.

Note Jim’s two provisions: “A month later” and “for a short period of time.” Then note that Jim’s comment about Ted Kennedy — which wasn’t issued spontaneously, for no reason, but in relation to the announcement of an upcoming movie about a particular action that Ted Kennedy took, which resulted in someone’s death — was made in 2015, more than six years after Kennedy died.

These sorts of screenshot games are rife on Twitter. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve organized a debate between two writers who disagree on a given question of public policy, deliberately put the two pieces next to each other on the homepage, and then fielded weeks of gotcha screenshots from morons who set the two arguments side by side in a wordless tweet to imply that the contrast is an oversight instead of the point. It’s sad that Jim’s careful essay prompted such a response from Chotiner, but, having seen how he conducts his interviews I suppose it’s not surprising.


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