Thursday, July 15, 2004

Steyn Whine: Hugh Hewitt linked to a June Dan Kennedy piece in the Boston Phoenix that purports to hammer Mark Steyn pretty hard, comparing him to (gasp) Rush Limbaugh and Ann Coulter. Decide for yourself. (I'll admit I'm a Steyn reader, although we certainly differ on numerous issues; his New Criterion stuff is particularly good.) I think it's a pretty slender indictment for a pushing-2500-word, media-crit meditation -- essentially that Steyn punches hard and has been careless with some facts, and -- oh, yeah -- he's a homophobe. Wow.

To take the slenderest of charges first, the homophobe accusation comes from an unsourced bit in which Kennedy implies that Steyn likes to assure people that he's not gay, and from a quote in which Steyn says that L. Frank Baum, creator of the Wizard of Oz stories, was not gay -- that "the original friend of Dorothy was not a Friend of Dorothy." Get it? Vicious, I know.

As to the fact twisting, Kennedy points to a Steyn column on Max Cleland:

[I]in perhaps his sleaziest column of 2004, a condescending dismissal of triple-amputee war hero Max Cleland, Steyn’s principal source was [Ann] Coulter.
I read Coulter's column on Cleland. It was pretty brutal, unfairly making out Cleland to be a boob or a schlemozzel. The facts that Steyn took from it are essentially undisputed: that Cleland was terribly injured in Vietnam, but it was in a grenade accident -- not in combat (which Cleland also saw). Steyn's column was not belittling (he describes Coulter's own column as "merciless") and Kennedy attempts to associate Steyn with Coulter simply to dismiss them both with the same critique. It doesn't work.

Kennedy's final judgement on Steyn is that he's a good writer who is altogether too glib and flippant to be taken seriously or trusted on the facts. Two things, though:

First, Steyn is an opinionist, not a reporter. (To put it another way, what do you want to bet that they just loved Michael Moore's Farenheit 9/11?)

Second, in this same article, speaking of Steyn's major employer, media group Hollinger, Kennedy says of its erstwhile owner Conrad Black:

[Black is] now in trouble for allegedly lying about money, or lying about alleged money, or some such thing.
That sounds . . . er, just a bit too glib and flippant to be taken seriously or trusted on the facts, doesn't it?

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