It isn’t easy being a public-sector-union leader these days. “This is beyond insane,” said Steve Smith, president of the Providence Teachers’ Union in Rhode Island, reacting to the city’s latest outrageous provocation. “Let’s create the most chaos and the highest level of anxiety in a district where teachers are already under unbelievable stress. Now I know how the United States State Department felt on December 7, 1941.”
Critics took President Smith’s remark as the usual self-aggrandizing comparison of timeserving desk-jockeys to men of action in the thick of it. Except, of course, that Mr. Smith wasn’t comparing himself to anyone in the general vicinity of Hawaii but to a bunch of similarly desk-bound bureaucrats thousands of miles away in Washington. What does he mean? That the Japanese bombs created the chaos and the State Department had to clear it up? Or is it some sort of Pearl Harbor truther allusion? Like brave Rhode Island educators, certain State Department officials knew exactly what was coming but nobody would listen to them?
But I’m getting ahead of myself. Reporting for the Providence Journal, Linda Borg, mindful of the fact that most of her readers have been educated by members of Mr. Smith’s union, felt obliged to add a more basic clarification: “That was the day the Japanese government bombed Pearl Harbor.”
December 7, 1941: a day that shall live in infamy, but not in Providence.
By the way, that’s why America’s monodailies are dying. Maybe they’d die anyway, but wouldn’t it be more fun and more dignified to go down in flames like a kamikaze pilot or Charlie Sheen than by self-anesthetizing your prose into utter unreadability? As Capt. Jean-Luc Picard of the starship Enterprise remarked apropos Ms. Borg’s namesakes, resistance is futile. You can try to read on, but the vast J-school-credentialed army of lethal parenthetics will crush you ’neath their feet: December 7, 1941, is the day the Japanese government bombed Pearl Harbor. Pearl Harbor is a U.S. naval base in the Pacific. The Pacific is a large body of water. Water is what your eyes are beginning to do . . .
But wait: Linda Borg’s explanation raises questions of its own: “The Japanese government” bombed Pearl Harbor? Was the Second World War an epic conflict of bureaucrats, with Tokyo civil servants in imperial morning dress bearing down on beleaguered State Department officials? Or was the Providence Journal self-correcting? Perhaps Ms. Borg originally wrote that “Japan” or “the Japanese” bombed Pearl Harbor, and a sharp-eyed editor amended it to clarify that only a few employees of “the Japanese government” participated in the bombing. Or perhaps political correctness is now so ingrained that a Providence reporter reflexively writes like that anyway. As Whoopi Goldberg put it, in response to Bill O’Reilly’s careless slur that the Japanese had attacked us at Pearl Harbor: “Some Japanese attacked us.” Doubtless atypical Japanese, from whose unrepresentative ranks no general conclusions can be drawn.