Saturday, January 07, 2006

Hugh Hewitt: Constant Child

Today, Hugh Hewitt continues his war against LA Times columnist and blogger Michael Hiltzik in a post that is at once mean-spirited, childish, and contradictory.

In response to a Patterico piece reviewing the Times's errors in 2005, Hiltzik penned a two-part response, in which he compared certain bloggers to Stalinists. It was a foolish, irresponsible, indefensible comment. Even if these bloggers do "ascribe imaginary motivations to reporters and editors," the fact of the matter is, they don't use such ascriptions to execute anyone. As far as Hiltzik's specific criticisms of Patterico's points go, I'm not qualified to judge. I don't read the LA Times, and frankly, I just don't share the stridency of people like Hugh Hewitt and Michelle Malkin in their disdain of the "mainstream media." About which phrase, incidentally, Hiltzik asks an interesting question, one I'd also ask: "If they regard newspapers, newsmagazines, and television news departments as mainstream, doesn't that place them on the fringe?"

Hiltzik goes on to criticize bloggers for encouraging people not to read "mainstream" news organs:

Such reveling in ignorance of one's subject is a new phenomenon in criticism. You don't hear movie critics bragging about never going to the cinema, TV critics dropping their cable subscriptions, or book critics swearing off reading.

It's a good point. Then again, who am I to say so? I still read the New York Times everyday and the New Yorker every week -- and enjoy both, despite my in-the-bones conservatism. Hiltzik is also on to something, I think, when he criticizes the ideological nature of bloggers' attacks on the "mainstream media." For example: is Hugh Hewitt -- who worked in the Reagan administration and for the Nixon Library, who has admitted to voting for Bush twice -- capable of viewing a newspaper objectively? He asks the same questions of reporters, after all.

But back to Hewitt's response. He begins by hurling insults at Hiltzik, who "has no audience." "Not many people are reading [his blog]." "Nobody cares what a lefty Columbia School of Journalism grad thinks. It isn't like such opinions are in short supply." (Does anybody care what a righty talk radio host thinks? It isn't like such opinions are in short supply.) Therefore, says Hewitt, Hiltzik isn't even worth a response: "I don't have time to bother with that portion of old media that is already unread." Then why spend so much time, and so many words, responding to him? In fairness to Hewitt, it's more of a non-response, because he never gets beyond the playground: the insults continue, and he lets folks like Patterico fight his battles for him.

Clearly, somebody is reading Hiltzik: Patterico, obviously, and also Tom Maguire. If the columnist was that inconsequential, that unread, Patterico would never have thought it worth his while to post multiple responses. Not that Hewitt has evidence of Hiltzik's lack of readership. You see, Hiltzik's blog doesn't have a meter although he does allow comments, of which Hewitt says that there are very few (though the two posts about Patterico both generated more than 85 apiece) and that therefore very few people read the site. Game, set, match. Of course, Hewitt doesn't even allow comments on his blog. Not that this is necessarily a bad thing . . . but if you're going to complain about transparency, then maybe you should -- at least a little bit -- practice what you preach.

In any event, this is a strange line of attack for a person who often sings the praises of small, unknown bloggers and regularly links to blogs that can't have more than a couple dozen readers on a good day. Maybe the number of readers of Hiltzik's blog has been disappointing, I don't know. But isn't the fact that he has a blog in the first place a good thing, an indication that bigtime newspapers, journalists, and columnists are realizing the importance and utility of the medium?

Hewitt later re-emphasizes, again contradictorily, that responding to Hiltzik is beneath him.

I really don't feel any need to respond to being labelled an 'ignorant partisan trope' by a largely unknown blogger no matter where he has a desk. [FYI, Hugh: here, and later, you use "trope" to refer to people, whereas "trope" is defined as "a word or expression used in a figurative sense: figure of speech."] I have been attacked by much more serious people and for much more serious reasons, and dismissed those slams as similar crys [sic] for attention and traffic.

This is the howlingest of the post's howlers. I can understand not responding to anonymous Joe Blogger who levels churlish criticism, or even to ideologically driven bloggers like Michael Hiltzik (especially when he writes things like that Stalinist show trial comparison). But to ignore even "more serious people" who criticize "for much more serious reasons" -- and to believe that they are attention whores -- is the height of arrogance. I don't think Andrew Sullivan, for example, needs Hugh Hewitt to send him traffic. Of course, too, the accusation can cut both ways: does Hewitt slam the LA Times in order to generate publicity for himself, his blog, and his radio show? It's a fair question, but I doubt Hewitt would ever respond.

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