Thursday, May 28, 2015

A Critique Is Not An Attack

An email to the New York Times Washington bureau, and reporter Patrick Healy.

The piece I am responding to is a short blog entry at the New York Times website. Click here to read it, won't take long.

To Mr. Healy or whom it may concern,

The quality of our political writing matters.

There is a tendency to cover political campaigns or debated issues as if they were sporting events, which lends some excitement and drama but can also do a disservice to the nature of debate. I thought of this when reading this blog entry by Mr. Healy.

Starting with the headline: "Bernie Sanders Attacks Hillary Clinton Directly on Trade Deal." Of course, I understand that writers rarely write the headlines. But whether this is a note for Patrick Healy or for the editor, the headline is absurdly misleading. On the substance, all candidate Sanders did was say that candidate Clinton should take a clear position on TPP. That isn't an attack, and here is my point.

There is a tendency for lots of people to lose any distinction between an argument and an attack. If I say "My opponent hates America," that is an attack. If I say, "My opponent's position on Issue X is misguided, and instead we need to consider my policy," that is a political debate. Sure, candidates can muddy that line, but the line exists and political writers have to emphasize that line.

One reason there is less civic engagement is that people are loathe even to engage in political discussion. The negative impression people have of political argument is based on the behavior of our national politicians and media figures. The press has an important role to play not only in reporting the facts and telling a compelling story about political campaigns - but in demonstrating constructive discourse.

Thanks for reading.


1 comment:

Kelly said...

I don't like to engage in political discussion (or other topics) because quite often what I say (particularly in a written format, such as the comment section of a blog) gets taken the wrong way. I can remember that happening on this very blog one time. Who knows...maybe I in turn took the next person's response the wrong way as well. I've also learned, in this global world of blogging, that cultural/geographical differences can lead to misunderstandings. But I digress...