Thursday, May 14, 2009

Don't Know What to do About Yoo

As an update to my previous post about the Philadelphia Inquirer adding John "Mr. Torture" Yoo to its opinion pages -- The Conservative Corner -- there has been quite the reaction from near & far.

As the NYTimes notes, Ire Over a Columnist, an Author of Torture Memos:

When The Philadelphia Inquirer hired as its new opinion columnist John C. Yoo, an author of the Bush administration’s widely criticized legal memos on harsh interrogation techniques, it was probably inevitable that the decision would draw complaints.

The surprise was that it took months to provoke much reaction, in part because it took that long for readers to realize that Mr. Yoo, a Philadelphia native, was not an occasional contributor, as he had been for years, but a regular monthly fixture at the paper. The Inquirer hired him last fall for a year, but did not make a splashy public announcement, as it did in 2007, with former Senator Rick Santorum, who writes every two weeks.
As the Times added:

Harold Jackson, The Inquirer’s editorial page editor, said he was surprised by the sudden delayed anger directed his way over Mr. Yoo. He said the decision to hire a columnist was his, but that “Mr. Yoo was suggested by the publisher,” Brian Tierney.

“There was a conscious effort on our part to counter some of the criticism of The Inquirer as being a knee-jerk liberal publication,” Mr. Jackson said. “We made a conscious effort to add some conservative voices to our mix.”

A knee-jerk liberal publication? The only people who could possibly think that are those who stopped reading it long ago. The more recent people driven away did so because it was anything but. Will Bunch noted, in Definitely not a "knee-jerk liberal publication": "I kind of thought they'd already dispelled that 'knee-jerk liberal' thing by hiring Rick Santorum, Michael Smerconish, etc., but maybe that's just me."

As for Jackson being surprised about delayed anger? Gee, I don't suppose it might have had anything to do with the fact that no one knew. As Steve Benen says, YOO CAN'T BE SERIOUS:
This doesn't work at all. First, there was "delayed anger" because no one knew -- and the paper didn't announce -- that the Inquirer had actually hired Yoo until this past weekend. As a rule, people rarely complain about a development before learning about it.
And if that's not enough, the coup d'grace was:
Post Script: Tierney told the NYT few of his readers actually care about this: "I've gotten more mail recently on our making our comics smaller than I have on John Yoo." Here's hoping that changes fairly soon.
Blogger Philebrity proposes that we locals take action to express our displeasure through a boycott of the Inky so long as Yoo Know Who is part of the paper, Editorial: Boycott The Philadelphia Inquirer.:
But to give voice to one of the architects of one of America’s darkest moments ever is simply a bridge too far. As readers and colleagues in the media (however much some Inky folks might want to deny that simple fact), we are, to put it plainly, disgusted. This city has taken a lot of abuse from the Philadelphia Inquirer over the years, and via its ongoing Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection, it stands to take more — who knows how much local businesses will get stiffed when all is said and done? This is more than insult to injury. To even have Yoo’s voice emanating from this city’s presupposed paper of record is a blight upon Philadelphia itself. And it’s here that we say, “Enough.” Please join us in boycotting the Philadelphia Inquirer from this point forward — both in physical form AND online — until the paper sees fit to remove John Yoo from its pages, and encourage others to do so as well.
On the other hand, Mary Shaw of Philadelphia Freedom Blog opposes the boycott, Why I oppose the Inquirer boycott:
In this country, John Yoo has the right to spew his vile nonsense, and the Inky has every right to publish his distasteful content. I don't have to read Yoo's columns if I don't want to. But I might want to. Because a key to defeating one's opponents in an argument is to understand the opponent's thought processes.

Hopefully Yoo's columns can provide us with some insights into the psyche of the torturer, and hopefully we can use those insights constructively to present better arguments to counter Yoo's talking points.

That is where we can be truly effective. Rather than boycotting the Inky, we should read each and every one of Yoo's columns. And we should respond to each column en masse with well-reasoned and well-written letters to the editor, in great enough numbers to ensure that some will get published.
I certainly agree with Mary Shaw's sentiments, but I know that there is no way that I would waste my time with the likes of Yoo (or Santorum). In my view, some ideas are so outside the realm of reason that they are worth responding to. In fact, I think part of the problem with our discourse today is that we have given a forum to people whose extremist views should never have received a platform.

I am definitely more in the boycott camp. I have chronicled the decline of the Inky since its purchase by PR mogul Brian Tierney in May of 2006. At various times, I have been annoyed enough to want to stop getting the paper -- like when Rick Santorum was hired. My husband was even willing to do so, even though he prefers to read the actual paper than the on-line version. The quality has also declined, much like the size of the paper itself, but there are still those reporters who manage to do a great job despite what has to be trying conditions. It is for that reason that I still hesitate to pull the plug. But I'm still thinking about it.

As for Tierney, I wish him nothing but the worst. And he is getting it from all over, since Inky's stance has earned it some delicious scorn. Gawker expresses it best, Philly Paper Has 'Only Despicable Republicans' Hiring Policy:
The Philadelphia Inquirer is a bankrupt paper run by a greedy Republican flack. They're going to save themselves by hiring America's most unpopular and/ or idiotic Republicans as columnists:

John Yoo, the Bush lawyer most famous for his Torture Memos, is now a bylined Inquirer columnist. Let's examine a list of the paper's recent high-profile Op-Ed page hirings:

  • John Yoo.
  • Rick Santorum.
See also, Did I Miss the Part Where John Yoo Actually Matters?

For more opinion on the issue, see:

Is Philly Inquirer also OK with Yoo's hypocrisy?

The Philadelphia Inquirer and John Yoo

The Philadelphia Inquirer and Yoo

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