Saturday, April 15, 2006

Stereotypical Fink-el

David Finkel has a piece today that has blogging rightwingers crowing over their corn flakes. His article on Maryscott O'Connor of My Left Wing entitled "The Left, Online and Outraged" is raising rousing cheers of "look how nuts the moonbats are" from the likes of AJ Strata, The Jawa Report and Don Surber. All of whom prove that their own version of emote-blogging and that of their rivals across the party divide are remarkably similiar. Their commenters go even further and prove that no-one has a monopoly on hating the "other side".

But this isn't the first time Finkel has gone out of his way to find a story he could portray as stereotypically as he could. Read his words from a Columbia Journalism Review interview in April 2004:
We thought we'd try to find, as a starting point, someone who fit in many ways - there's no perfect thing - someone who could seem like a stereotype of a red and blue person, and use the technique of narrative journalism to write about what their life is like. So they're narrative pieces, with the starting point of seeming like a stereotype and going from there into something beyond stereotype. That's the hope; it's up to readers to decide.

...It's not like I was hoping these pieces would advance or dominate or affect the public debate. I was hoping people would read them with open minds. I think there's value every once in a while to represent a stereotype on two levels: first, to do dignity to the stereotype, not just a surface-y thing, and then to let readers use it as a kind of mirror to see themselves and what they think as they read about these people. I've gotten so much response, some have been really thoughtful - and I also mean thoughtful disagreements - and some have been out-and-out rants.

I suspected all along these would be the hardest pieces to do because it's not like there's a simple story and simple tension to be resolved. These were portraits and any time you do portraits you're setting yourself up for broad-brushing, except in this case the goal was to find some version of a stereotype and go from there.
Only in this case case he was trying to justify his hatchet-piece on a Republican, an article which ABC's The Note described as:
"full of color and some might seem strained and patronizing to some of its conservative readers."
and Wonkette called a ""massive collection of condescending cliche."

Maybe the wingnuts shouldn't be too quick to crow. Finkel's next article could so easily be about one of them. He, correctly, says that:
Not that long ago, it was the right that was angry and the left that was, at least comparatively, polite. But after years of being the targets of inflammatory rhetoric, not only from fringe groups but also from such mainstream conservative politicians as Newt Gingrich, the left has gone on the attack. And with Republicans in control of Washington, they have much more to be angry about.
People who live in glasshouses shouldn't call other people "the same as terrorists", and all that...

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