Filak’s First Rule of Holes states: “When you find yourself in one, stop digging.”
It’s pretty clear the folks at the Wall Street Journal’s opinion section haven’t learned this one yet.
In reacting to the outrage prompted by Joseph Epstein’s column on Dr. Jill Biden, opinion editor Paul A. Gigot settled on a strategy that basically said, “Hey, kiddo, you wanna hand me that shovel over there?”
Gigot, who has once again proved that winning a Pulitzer Prize doesn’t necessarily mean you’re always good at journalism, decided that it would not only be good to avoid apologizing for Epstein’s anti-intellectual and misogynistic rant, but to actively support it. In his myopic viewpoint, any negative reaction was clearly just a political hatchet job conducted by the Bidens alone to drown out negative stories on their family:
Why go to such lengths to highlight a single op-ed on a relatively minor issue? My guess is that the Biden team concluded it was a chance to use the big gun of identity politics to send a message to critics as it prepares to take power. There’s nothing like playing the race or gender card to stifle criticism. It’s the left’s version of Donald Trump’s “enemy of the people” tweets.
There’s a saying in Wall Street circles regarding bad investors who are perfect foils to bet against: “Often wrong, never in doubt.” If Gigot’s defense of Epstein’s piece isn’t a perfect example of this phrase, I don’t know what would be.
Since I’m involved in a “sweet racket” where I only work six months out of the year and never put in eight hours of day, I might as well put aside everything else I’m doing to pick apart this rectally based argumentation.
First, this isn’t a minor issue. Sexism and anti-intellectualism are two of the more troubling things in today’s society. The fact you see this as a couple “uppity broads” and a few “academic twerps” getting their doctoral noses out of joint means you’re either actively avoiding those two bigger issues or you’re too stupid to see them. Neither position is a good one from which to launch an argument.
Second, this isn’t a political thing. The reason I (and many others) actively dislike politics is because people like you manage to view EVERYTHING through this tiny lens alone. This is what allows you to dismiss things you don’t like without having to consider any other position, including the concept that your writer was just wrong.
I didn’t drill a ton of holes in Epstein’s piece because I’m part of the George-Soros-based-QAnon-fighting-ultra-liberal-conspiracy-based new world order. The mother ship didn’t send me a signal letting me know it was time to pipe up and attack an octogenarian who wishes he could perpetually live in an era where he could call any woman he wants “cutie buns.” I wrote what I wrote because this guy was an idiot, whether he was telling it to Jill Biden, Jill Munroe or Jill of “Jack and Jill.”
Third, when you mention that these complaints are an attempt to “stifle criticism,” I wonder if you really know what the word “criticism” means. Epstein’s piece is to quality criticism what Velveeta is to cheese: They’re only similar if you are really desperate to see them as such.
Nevertheless, you persisted…
The outrage is overwrought because, whether you agree or disagree, Mr. Epstein’s piece was fair comment. The issue of Jill Biden’s educational honorific isn’t new. As long ago as 2009, the Los Angeles Times devoted a story to the subject. From the piece by Robin Abcarian: “Joe Biden, on the campaign trail, explained that his wife’s desire for the highest degree was in response to what she perceived as her second-class status on their mail. ‘She said, “I was so sick of the mail coming to Sen. and Mrs. Biden. I wanted to get mail addressed to Dr. and Sen. Biden.” That’s the real reason she got her doctorate,’ he said.”
I guess you were sick the day at Dartmouth that they taught you what fair comment was. As a defense against libel, sure, it works here. I don’t think people are claiming the Bidens have a legal claim against Epstein or the paper for this column. Even in the case of “fair comment,” people have the right to get upset about comments other people make. If you think that people were overly mean to Epstein, here’s a look at what the Internet did to a 19-year-old University of Buffalo student when she wrote that women shouldn’t get tattoos. In short, people like Epstein have a right to their opinion, but that doesn’t mean the rest of us have to quietly enjoy it.
In any case, you follow your “fair comment” argument by saying the media has been all over this issue for decades. You support that with an anecdote that in no way supports that position. Comparing how a reporter relayed a comment the president-elect made back in 2009 about Jill Biden’s quest to become a doctor to Epstein’s column in which he crapped all over her effort and her degree is disingenuous at best.
And, yet, you persisted:
Many readers said Mr. Epstein’s use of “kiddo” is demeaning, but then Joe Biden is also fond of that locution. In his 2012 Democratic convention speech he even used it to refer to his wife in the context of his many proposals of marriage: “I don’t know what I would have done, kiddo, had you on that fifth time said no.” You can buy a T-shirt on the internet with Mr. Biden’s image pointing a finger saying “That’s where you’re wrong, kiddo!”
I can’t seem to locate any information on your personal marital status, Paul, but as someone who has taken the plunge, let me fill you in on something. If Joe Biden wants to call his wife “kiddo” and Jill Biden is OK with it, that’s fine because they’re in a lifelong relationship of a special nature. They also probably kiss here and there, which seems to be fine as well, because, again, y’know, happily married and lovingly connected.
This doesn’t give everyone carte blanche to do this.
Here’s maybe a better explanation for you: If I come home tonight, kiss Amy and say, “How are you doing today, sweetheart,” it’s probably fine. If you roll up to my house and do that to Amy, she’s going to knock the snot out of you.
And, yet, you persisted…
Mr. Epstein also infuriated dozens of educators defending their doctorates. (See the nearby letters.) But that status isn’t sacrosanct or out-of-bounds for debate. Mr. Epstein’s point applies to men and women and his piece also mocked men for their honorary degrees. Mrs. Biden is now America’s most prominent doctorate holder and is taking a leading role in education policy. She can’t be off-limits for commentary.
By the way, the Journal editorial page’s longtime style is to use “Dr.” only when referring to medical doctors. Henry Kissinger gets a “Mr.” Lynne Cheney, wife of Dick Cheney, is Mrs. Cheney despite her Ph.D.
Man, can you even SEE the top of the hole you’re digging at this point? Do we need to lower some water or oxygen tanks to you at this point?
Look, it’s not that we’re infuriated that you don’t like our doctorates. And you’re right that the importance of a doctorate isn’t sacrosanct or out-of-bounds for debate, but this wasn’t a debate or a discussion about the importance of higher levels of education. It’s that this human sphincter took it upon himself to essentially say to the incoming first lady, “Look, sweetie, stop thinking so highly of yourself. You’re not a REAL doctor.”
Jill Biden is clearly not “off-limits” for commentary. If she makes a policy statement, comment on it. If the administration does something and she has a role, comment on it. However, I have to imagine you can actually see some line out there, somewhere, that the Journal wouldn’t cross simply because you won’t “limit commentary” on Jill Biden. If not, I’m actively awaiting a “Doesn’t Jill Biden have a SMOKING HOT body for a woman of her age?” column that one of your writers is probably getting ready to visit upon us all.
And, not that you don’t know this, but this isn’t about style. The WSJ can use whatever style it wants, just like AP, the New York Times and a dozen other media outlets. This was never a question of who gets what treatment in a news story.
And with all of the grace of a drunk falling down of stairs, you concluded…
If you disagree with Mr. Epstein, fair enough. Write a letter or shout your objections on Twitter. But these pages aren’t going to stop publishing provocative essays merely because they offend the new administration or the political censors in the media and academe. And since it’s a time to heal, we’ll give the Biden crowd a mulligan for their attacks on us.
Calling Epstein’s piece a “provocative essay” is like calling a Ford Pinto “a hot car with a little something extra.”
The problem you face here, Mr. Gigot — Paul — P-Diddy — Paulie No Nuts– Sweetie Muffin– is that you have the right concept (don’t let politicians and harpies force you into silence) but the wrong hill on which to make that stand (a really lousy column, delivered by a clueless writer, that is insulting to thousands of people, many of whom probably don’t like anything Biden-related).
Epstein’s thoughts reek of arrogance, sexism and personal animus and really have no place on the pages of a national publication. They should barely be tolerated at the local tavern after an old-timer has six beers in him and starts bitching about “femi-Nazis who are ruining the country I fought for!”
Your position, that this is somehow a political conspiracy built by people trying to cow your publication into writing only positive Biden stories, makes you sound like a grumpy old man who has spent way too much time watching spy thrillers at 3 a.m. on basic cable.
You don’t have to be a liberal to think Epstein’s work was stupid. You don’t need to feel entitled to a title to think the Wall Street Journal should have flushed this turd before it saw the light of day. You don’t have to be Team Biden to think your defense of this was either purposefully ignorant or painfully unaware.
Once you climb out of that hole you’ve dug, maybe you give this situation another look.