Thursday, December 30, 2004

Are we being too harsh? 

As Joe Carter notes today, the blogosphere has been almost united in its criticism of ankle-biter-in-chief Nick Coleman's attack on PowerLine. One voice in the wilderness has been Penraker, who suggests NARN has baited him.

Nick Coleman is a very small, very unusual man. But his rantings did not arise in a vacuum. There is a reason and a history behind his spewings.

The Northern Alliance took after Coleman with a particular zest. They have savaged him for weeks on the air - and it sure seemed personal to me. (I don't have transcripts, but I remember thinking "Why are they ripping this guy a new one in such a personal manner?"). If I recall correctly , they called him a coward, etc. As far as I was concerned, they went a little too far. Coleman is probably not worthy of much respect, and he probably let his ego start the whole thing - But if you are doing things right, you retain a certain minimum level of respect for even the nuttiest liberals. All human beings deserve a minimum level of respect - even Star Tribune columnists. The Northern Alliance shifted into a juvenilely mocking tone whenever discussing Coleman.

So it's not surprising to see they have pushed him over the edge into pure insanity.

A few points need addressing. Has NARN gone after Coleman? Sure we have. Part of the third hour of every show is media criticism. I call it Mediot of the Week; Coleman could retire the award in my opinion, even in a city with some real competition from his wife or any regular writer of the City Pages.

Is it unfair to characterize Coleman as a coward? He has been invited to the show several times. Up to this month he ignored these invitations. This month he says he "might consider" being on if we pay for the interview with a contribution to Maxfield School. Paying for interviews is a poor policy and we do not do so. His voicemail to Mitch Berg, which I heard, was genuinely vile in my opinion. And then he sends an email suggesting he might wish to sue us for making false statements about him.

That makes all the more interesting his editor's statement to Big Trunk at Powerline yesterday, when Scott called to ask how the StarTribune could print Coleman's fact-free piece.
Among other things, the editor advised me that Coleman's attack on us involved no reporting, and that the column's factual misrepresentations were to be read in that light. Moreover, certain of the misrepresentations were to be construed as sarcasm rather than taken at face value.

Now I've been accused of being irony-challenged, but since the beginning of all this folderol was the sarcasm practiced in the Newspaper Newlyweds, in return for which Coleman is smearing the wrong people (at least his wife sort of got it right), the StarTribune's defense of yet another ad hominem attack on Scott and John strikes me as, well, ironic.

(UPDATE BELOW MODIFIES THIS PARA.) As to "juvenile mocking", I suggest Penraker simply read Fraters. Their on-air style fits their blog style. They are who they are. We have different styles, and that comes through on the show; some of us are lawyers, some are academics, and some are younger than others. That melange works on-air for reasons I still don't fully grasp. It is not at all surprising, though, that when we go to the topic that touches FL most, we go into their style. Listen to us talk about Ukraine when I sort of control the discussion, and the tone is different. So what?

As I do not live in the Cities and do not read the StarTribune because it's irrelevant to me, not because of my disgust with its editorial policies, I've tended to stand on the side of this debate. (There are certain writers in the St. Cloud paper about whom I could bloviate mightily, but since nobody outside central MN reads that paper, who would care?) But given what I've seen of Coleman's behavior here, and the apathy with which the STrib's editorial board editors deal with personal attacks on Powerline, I'm not sure I can muster up much in the way of minimal respect for Coleman. I will try, certainly, particularly if he should drop his demands and come on our show with no preconditions. But you have to get respect to give respect, and I'm still waiting to see if Coleman can show any.

UPDATE: I've received a bunch of email about this story (for those who aren't familiar, the address is comments at scsuscholars dot com). First, some suggest I've agreed with Penraker over the comment on juvenile mocking. I wrote that paragraph poorly and have to say that I agree with the criticism. I profusely apologize to The Elder and Saint Paul for my mistake. They have a different style and use more satire -- heck, they're just funnier than I am -- and that was the point I was trying to make in that paragraph. But I completely disagree with Penraker that their pieces are juvenile. Nor would I call the on-air presentation this either.

Second, Linda Seebach, a writer at the Rocky Mountain News (and, IIRC, a former MN Daily writer) writes that because Coleman is a metro columnist and not on the editorial board, so that he's not edited by the editorial board as I suggested. I apologize for that misstatement; in his post Big Trunk says he spoke to "Coleman's editor" and it was me that read that for "editorial board". Thanks for the correction, Linda!