Tuesday, June 07, 2005

5 August 2004 E-Mail to Readers

This is an e-mail to which an anonymous poster on "Commonwealth Conservative" referred. I put it here so that it can be judged on its own merits. Names and e-mail addresses have been omitted.

Dear friends,
Please forgive the impersonal nature of this missive, but desperate times require desperate measures. OK, so maybe that's an overstatement.
In any case, I met today with [Publisher] and [Managing Editor] of the Potomac News. I wanted to update you on what has been happening, and what I would humbly ask you to do.
You will recall the earlier e-mail that I sent to you. Well, that's
[Managing Editor]'s story, and she's sticking to it. My column has been discontinued because it is, according to [Managing Editor], "boring," "repetitive," and "mean-spirited." It was quite clear from the outset that her extreme hostility to me was (with difficulty) held in check in the meeting, with her making the specific comment that "she promised she wouldn't get angry." Why she would worry about that speaks volumes about her attitude.
Moreover, that the criticisms were never (and I repeat, never) conveyed to me renders [Publisher]'s decision to stick with his dismissal questionable in the extreme. I am not even to be given the opportunity to address the "problems" that
[Managing Editor] cites as the reasons for her decision.
Perhaps I am wrong, but that I am not to be permitted to correct these "problems" suggests to me that the real reason for the discontinuance remains unconceded by the Powers That Be at the Potomac News. Thus, while they vehemently deny political motivation, when the uncommunicated complaints about my column justify dismissal without an opportunity to address them, it seems quite clear that the only justification remaining is ideological. And while whether they publish my "rantings" is a decision they are entitled to make, it seems to me that they should not be permitted to misrepresent the real reasons, which seem to be nothing so much as political and ideological. Indeed, they even conceded that circulation spikes on Wednesday (when my column runs), though
[Managing Editor] attributes that to the weekly food section. Perhaps she is correct, though enough have said that they buy the paper on that day because my column appears that I can at least hold out the possibility (hope?) that I contribute somewhat to that spike in circulation.
Of course, you can judge for yourselves whether her assessments are accurate, or even fair. It seems to me that no one who generates the volume of mail that I do can be called "boring." As for "repetitive"? Well, this seems to have been precipitated by two things: (1) my recent columns dealing with Chairman Sean Connaughton's efforts to muzzle his conservative critics; and (2) my reference to Bill Clinton as "the Great Prevaricator," which particularly seems to set Susan off. As to the latter, the reference is not original to me; as you know, Ronald Reagan was dubbed the "great Communicator." It seems only fair to echo that sentiment, applying Bill Clinton's most prominent characteristic. Besides, Paul Greenburg dubbed him "Slick Willie" well before I knew what an op-ed was. As to the former? Well, as I pointed out, the paper was not covering those long-term, three-month efforts at all. Both vehemently denied affiliation with or even a fair amount of respect for Chairman Sean.
Perhaps the real reason for the discontinuance was alluded to by
[Managing Editor], who was prefacing a comment with that I "have an agenda," at which point I interrupted with laughter because anything she said afterward couldn't be taken seriously, as all opinion columnists "have an agenda."
The point, it seems, is that I have an agenda with which she disagrees, and I express it with some style and forcefulness. It's the old story of confusing being articulate with being extreme or "mean-spirited." I was also criticized because I used the knowledge I have of the rise of the GOP in Prince William to cite past examples of inconsistencies, which apparently render my criticisms "personal," or "mean-spirited." You know: that old, illegitimate conservative tactic of using someone's own words and actions against them. Some call it holding them responsible. The managing editor of the Potomac News calls it "mean-spirited." Of course, that doesn't stop her from publishing letters highly critical of me which can be characterized as nothing if not "mean-spirited."
In any case, the meeting was left without satisfactory or even rational explanation for my "dismissal," save for these previously-uncommunicated complaints, and [Publisher]'s comment (perhaps pro forma) that he might reconsider at some unspecified later date.

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