Tuesday, May 10, 2005

John Tierney: Conservative, stupid, or both? 


This is the first column I’ve read by John Tierney, who assumed William Safire’s spot on the Times’ Op-Ed page, to very little fanfare, a couple months ago.

I’m not sure if Tierney generally comes at his subjects from a position of feigned naivety / disingenuousness, or actual stupidity, but in today’s column (“Bombs Bursting on Air”), at least, he comes across as a real idiot.
If a man-bites-dog story is news and dog-bites-man isn't, why are journalists still so interested in man-blows-up-self stories?

Huh? Is riffing on Rick Santorum? I don’t get it.
I'm not advocating official censorship, but there's no reason the news media can't reconsider their own fondness for covering suicide bombings. A little restraint would give the public a more realistic view of the world's dangers.

Here, he’s saying the media is “fond” of covering suicide bombings. And that not covering suicide bombings would “give the public a more realistic view of the world's dangers.” How does not covering a news event make the news more realistic than covering it?
Just as New Yorkers came to be guided by crime statistics instead of the mayhem on the evening news, people might begin to believe the statistics showing that their odds of being killed by a terrorist are minuscule in Iraq or anywhere else.

“Their odds” of being killed by a terrorist in Iraq are miniscule? Well, maybe the odds of the typical stateside Times reader being killed by a terrorist in Iraq are pretty slim, but the odds of someone in Iraq getting killed by a terrorist seem pretty high, given that every day some 10-12 such attacks are attempted, killing some 30-40 people on average. But then again, I guess I’m the guy reading that “unrealistic” coverage of those events… “unrealistic” by the mere fact, of course, of those events being covered at all.
Terrorists know the numbers are against them and realize that daily bombings will not win the war. All along, their hope has been to inspire recruits and spread general fear with another tactic, the bombing as photo opportunity. For some reason, their media strategy still works.

So this strikes me as the kind of willfully, irresponsibly head-in-the-sand argument that George Bush or Donald Rumsfeld might make, which leads me to ask (seriously, because I don’t know):
Does Tierney have a particular political viewpoint he aims to advance in his columns? Is he a “conservative”? Does that viewpoint lead him to write columns like these? Is Tierney a new “conservative voice” on the Times Op-Ed page, or is he merely stupid? (Or both?)


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