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Friday, October 14, 2005

Can You Help This Man?

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Richard Cohen of the Washington Post is nearing a crisis.

As Digby remarks offhandedly today, Cohen “writes precisely the wrong thing at precisely the wrong time.” This time, it’s

The best thing Patrick Fitzgerald could do for his country is get out of Washington, return to Chicago and prosecute some real criminals.

Last week, it was all about how Democrats were wrong to “jump all over” Bill Bennett’s casual association of black folk with criminality:

it is [Harry] Reid and the others who should apologize to Bennett. They were condemning and attempting to silence a public intellectual for a reference to a theory.

And who can forget Cohen’s eloquent “we must go to war with Saddam because of the anthrax in our nation’s capital” crusade of late 2001?

You see where this is going, folks—it’s not just a matter of writing precisely the wrong thing at precisely the wrong time.  Richard Cohen is running out of ways to be wrong. He has almost used them all up!  Of the twelve kinds of wrongness Aristotle describes in the Nicodeman Ethics (you remember, predictive, retrospective, substantive, distributive, boneheaded, etc.), Cohen has now employed eleven.  He has been wrong about things domestic and foreign, liberal and conservative, major and minor.

It’s not an overstatement to call this a national crisis of wrongness.  Unlike, say, the writers of Clownhall.com or Tech Central Station, Cohen does actual damage to the Republic with his compelling and influential wrongheadedness.  And in order for him to keep doing that damage, he needs to find new issues and events about which to be wrong.

Even the Washington Post Writers Group, in its blurb for Cohen, has acknowledged the problem:

Richard Cohen has a gift for writing in ways that touch people on issues great and small, and yet somehow coming to the wrong conclusion by means of the wrong chain of reasoning. In his twice-weekly column he tackles both complex issues and seemingly simple ones, helping people to understand what is happening around them, paradoxically by getting those issues so confoundingly wrong. From Ground Zero on that horrible September day to wherever his travels take him, his highly personal and graceful writing moves and informs his readers, showing them new and provocative ways to misconstrue and mischaracterize the events that affect us all.

The problem, of course, is with those “new and provocative ways.” Cohen’s Fitzgerald and Bennett columns alone deployed nine ways of being wrong, and the man just can’t keep this up forever.  He needs your help.  In comments, won’t you please suggest (a) new things that Cohen can be wrong about and (b) creative uses of the one remaining form of wrongness upon which he has not yet drawn?  I thank you, the Washington Post thanks you, and the entire Nation of Wrong thanks you.

Posted by Michael on 10/14 at 11:05 AM
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