Updated: 6/25/08 (correction in italics)
Nothing brings out the bloodlust better than an angry mob with torches and pitchforks. Time and time again, we have seen a certain pack mentality develop once there is some blood in the water. Once the feeding frenzy starts, the metaphors mix endlessly until the piranhas have nothing left to chew on but themselves.
As noted here, Media Matters recently brought up the issue of Maureen Dowd’s long-standing use of effeminizing words for male Democratic figures (particularly Barack Obama, and to a lesser degree, John Edwards) and masculine terms towards Hillary Clinton.
About the same time, the National Organization of Women named Dowd to their Election Media Hall of Shame and began a letter writing campaign to the New York Times. This led to a June 22nd column by Times Public Editor (read ombudsman) Clark Hoyt to investigate:
Peggy Aulisio of South Dartmouth, Mass., said, “A real review of your own stories and columns is warranted.” I think so too. And I think a fair reading suggests that The Times did a reasonably good job in its news articles. But Dowd’s columns about Clinton’s campaign were so loaded with language painting her as a 50-foot woman with a suffocating embrace, a conniving film noir dame and a victim dependent on her husband that they could easily have been listed in that Times article on sexism, right along with the comments of Chris Matthews, Mike Barnicle, Tucker Carlson or, for that matter, Kristol, who made the Hall of Shame for a comment on Fox News, not for his Times work.The case against Maureen and her defense are summarized thusly:
“I’ve been twisting gender stereotypes around for 24 years,” Dowd responded. She said nobody had objected to her use of similar images about men over seven presidential campaigns. She often refers to Barack Obama as “Obambi” and has said he has a “feminine” management style. But the relentless nature of her gender-laden assault on Clinton — in 28 of 44 columns since Jan. 1 — left many readers with the strong feeling that an impermissible line had been crossed, even though, as Dowd noted, she is a columnist who is paid not to be objective.Despite the defense of her putative boss Andrew Rosenthal, Hoyt finds Dowd worthy of a wrist slap:
Politically correct is never a term one would apply to Dowd’s commentary.Media Matters immediately went back on the offensive citing Dowd’s “nobody had objected” phrase and then copiously quoting notorious Dowd critics Bob Somerby, Taylor Marsh and Molly Ivors. In her defense, these are bloggers that might be below Dowd's radar. Media Matters didn't find any mainstream media sources that match those folks for sheer DowdHatred.
Even she, I think, by assailing Clinton in gender-heavy terms in column after column, went over the top this election season.
Piling on, bloggers have been cackling with glee at the sight of a bastion of the New York Times Op/Ed page getting her knuckles rapped with a ruler. Her is just a partial list of blogs that jumped in to take a kick at the prone body:
Michael Calderone at Politico
broadsheet at Salon
Greg Sargent at Talking Points Memo
Conde Nast Portfolio
And those are the tip of the iceberg. I really wish I had time to go through and select the most vituperative missives, but that may have to wait for another day. If you have seen a particularly vicious Dowd Driveby inspired by Hoyt's public flogging, let me know in the comments or at the tip-line. The only blogger I've come across to come to her defense is ATLmalcontent. It seems to show some sort of lockstep at work.
I’m sure Maureen Dowd will survive this bushwhacking. For every critic, there is a silent observer that agrees with her often pithy punditry. And it would be a shame to see Dowd start to pull her punches. After all, she told Clark:
“From the time I began writing about politics,” Dowd said, “I have always played with gender stereotypes and mined them and twisted them to force the reader to be conscious of how differently we view the sexes.” Now, she said, “you are asking me to treat Hillary differently than I’ve treated the male candidates all these years, with kid gloves.”And that just isn’t going to happen.