The case of Roger Cohen, cont’d

What I call “The case of Roger Cohen” continued this week with Cohen’s bizarre New York Times column “Israel calls wolf.” On Thursday James Taranto devoted his lead item to Cohen’s column under the heading “Los lobos locos.” Taranto impressively disassembles Cohen’s column.

Yesterday Taranto followed up with a comment on Cohen’s reference to the Atlantic’s Jeffrey Goldberg in the column. Cohen wrote: “Now here comes [Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu, in an interview with his faithful stenographer Jeffrey Goldberg of The Atlantic, spinning the latest iteration of Israel’s attempt to frame Iran as some Nazi-like incarnation of evil.” Taranto comments:

Why does Cohen call Goldberg a “stenographer” when he is in fact a journalist interviewing an important newsmaker? Obviously just to be insulting. Now, we love a good journalistic insult–just ask former Enron adviser Paul Krugman–but if you don’t have the wit to carry it off, insulting others just ends up making you look foolish.

In this case, Cohen obviously is driven by personal pique, as Goldberg has done excellent work pointing out the fatuity of Cohen’s various apologias for Iran. Cohen is also engaging in what psychologists call “projection,” since some of his own work–specifically, his dutiful repetition of Iranian Jews’ praise for the Islamist regime and denunciations of Israel, without acknowledging the unlikelihood of encountering open dissent under a repressive regime like Tehran’s–can be more accurately described as mere stenography.

The case of Roger Cohen presents a tangled mix of psychology and ideology combined with journalistic pretense that cannot easily be explained but that should not be ignored. Taranto devotes deserved and illuminating attention to the case.


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