This post, by blogger Simon Owens (I think), is a textbook-perfect case study in status anxiety. Owens doesn’t get how anyone could possibly enjoy Michelle Malkin, or how a well-regarded national magazine might consider her to be an important figure. The size of her audience, her role in a number of public controversies, her often strident and always unapologetic conservatism come to mind. This is the kind of good judgment that makes the magazine in question as good as it is — its editors have a somewhat broader sense of what is interesting and worthwhile than its occasionally narrow-minded fans.
But as it happens, Malkin really believes in her populist politics, and she’s refused to cooperate with the magazine. That’s a shame, in my view. And it’s left Owens sputtering.
Granted, I don’t doubt for a second that the magazine would have taken plenty of swipes at her — possibly even shredding her to bits — but why even give her the satisfaction of devoting 10,000 words about her so that she can go run to her fellow bloggers and whine about her unfair treatment.
This is funny, yet also cringe-inducing. Is the purpose of the highbrow magazine profile to serve as a balm for the wounded egos of people like Owens? Of course not. Harrumph! How dare she! How dare they! One almost gets the sense Owens would like to be profiled himself — as a hidden gem of the interweb. At the end of his post, Owens writes:
I find it especially funny that she tries to take swipes at [the writer], even though she’s not half the journalist [the writer] is. It’s because she knows that [the writer] will actually ask her hard questions, unlike the folks who wrote a puff profile piece about her at The Baltimore Sun.
But the letter doesn’t take a swipe at the writer at all — Malkin refers to “your staff Jane Goodall,” suggesting, perceptively, that she’d be approached more as an interesting, foreign phenomenon than as a thinker along the lines of, say, Pascal Bruckner or A.J. Ayer. (Um, I’m pretty sure I’d approach her as a phenomenon too.) That’s hardly a personal insult. Rather, it is an attack on a worldview — not entirely sound, but certainly coherent. And by the way, it seems that Baltimore Sun profile still makes Owens steaming mad. If only they knew they had a genius in their midst!
I don’t like to pick nits, but I am bothered by people who embrace superiority by association — I read X, other people are rubes, etc. Humility has its place. Most of us, myself included, will never exercise real power or gain much attention in the world. All we can do is have a little empathy and try to be decent people who aren’t poisoned by envy. I fail at this a lot, in part because I see avenging the jerkiness of others as one of my life’s central goals. (A bad idea, by the way.) But I do try to use it as a guideline, if only because I’d otherwise sense my mother judging me. I realize I’m being horribly earnest and self-righteous.
Incidentally, don’t think I’m not aware that in trying to rehabilitate the case for internment, Michelle Malkin is wryly suggesting that rounding up Muslim Americans like yours truly is something that should be in the toolkit of a democratic society. I make no apologies for her. Yet as someone who aspires to a good editorial eye, it’s clear to me that a non-obtuse person could easily find Malkin a worthy subject.
P.S.- Well, it appears that Simon Owens has responded very thoughtfully to my gentle criticisms in the comments below. I’m not sure I’d react quite as well, though I certainly hope I would. He makes an excellent point, though I think the basic disagreement remains.