We’ve received copies of two messages responding to Sunday’s New York Times column by “public editor” Clark Hoyt objecting to the Times’s hiring of Bill Kristol as an op-ed columnist. Hoyt reported that messages he had received ran approximately 700-1 against Kristol’s selection. He quoted a message from one member of “arguably the most elite audience in the nation” to editorial page editor Andrew Rosenthal condemning Kristol (twice) as “traiterous.” I commented on Hoyt’s column in “Rolling out the unwelcome mat for Bill Kristol.” Drew Alexander wrote Hoyt:
Concerning your article about William Kristol, and the howling mob who would string him up from a lamppost, while doubtless murmuring pieties about freedom of speech — they’re just ideas, folks, relax. We know you’re not used to hearing ideas that don’t comport with yours — after all you went to college where rarely is heard a conservative word — but take a deep breath. And, after all, part of the definition of liberal is to be “open to new ideas for progress, and tolerant of the ideas and behavior of others” (American Heritage Dictionary). Just as freedom of speech isn’t enshrined in our Bill of Rights to protect only popular speech — surely it is unpopular speech that needs protecting — the liberal mind shouldn’t be open only to those ideas it is in agreement with.
Oh, and by the way, if Scooter Libby can be prosecuted for outing an arguably covert agent, which, as I recall, the Times was so zealous in pursuing, why shouldn’t the Times be liable for prosecution for revealing a classified program? You feel you can conduct yourself any way you please, and then claim “intimidation” if called to account? Go carefully, and remember the story about the boy and the wolf.
Craig Trainor wrote Hoyt:
I write to add a dissenting voice among the multitude of hate mail you received. The New York Times is a liberal paper, and its reporting is biased in that direction. Honest people know this. Even so, I still read it religiously. Its coverage is in-depth and, although unquestionably tainted, insightful. I often tell people reading The Times not only informs me but also keeps me sharp: While reading it, I make mental notes of the value-laden statements and biased distortions I unearth somewhat routinely.
Given this backdrop, I applaud The Times’s effort to engage in genuine diversity: diversity of opinion. Kristol is a great choice. He will expose a large portion of your readership that otherwise wouldn’t touch The Weekly Standard to a well-reasoned column of iconoclastic thought (at least as it relates to The Times). It’s important for your newspaper’s readership to hear what he has to say. Indeed, one could reasonably argue that a person who holds the opinion that the New York Times is irredeemable and that the Justice Department should have considered prosecuting it for its serious and irresponsible lapse in judgment by publishing national security secrets is exactly what The Times needs to shake it up a bit.
In time, you will see Kristol is a good choice.
To these letters to the public editor we can also add the distinguished voice of Commentary senior editor Gabriel Schoenfeld in “Bill Kristol: Enemy of the people?” Whether or not Hoyt will ever come to see that Kristol is a great choice as a Times op-ed columnist, Hoyt will see that those who appreciate Kristol’s selection vastly exceed Kristol’s detractors in civility and literacy.
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