Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Exploring the Other Side

I gave up hating newspaper columnists ages ago, and I don't want Margaret Wente to be fired. But her recent essay on her new book only made clear to me the fundamental problem with her approach. People call her on being deliberately provocative, to which she thumbs her nose: "Would it be better if I deliberately set out to be inoffensive?" As though there were only the two extremes, and perhaps Wente is satisfied with making people angry, with provoking that response, but I can't help think a great writer can do better than that. If conventional wisdom is really so off base, if "exploring the other side" is so important, shouldn't she do it more carefully? Shouldn't she actually "explore" instead of committing columnly acts of mischief? Has a Margaret Wente column ever changed anyone's mind?

Provocation doesn't make people think, rather, it puts up walls. Which is one reason I'm not as frightened as I should be by American right-wing media (but that might just be because I don't have cable).