IT WAS OFFENSIVE ENOUGH THE FIRST TIME…. For reasons that continue to escape me, Forbes recently published an insane cover story, written by right-wing polemicist Dinesh D’Souza, attacking President Obama as a dangerous, radical “anti-colonialist,” with the mindset of an African “Luo tribesman.”
The obscene piece quickly drew considerable scrutiny, which it failed to withstand. Almost immediately, the Forbes piece was thoroughly discredited — not just for sloppy errors, but for what was effectively Birtherism with a high-brow veneer. The piece ended up doing far more damage to D’Souza and the magazine than any trouble it could have hoped to cause the president.
And yet, lo and behold, the Washington Post allowed D’Souza to rehash the identical argument in a 800-word op-ed today. Even Howard Kurtz, a long-time veteran of the paper, said, “Why would WP run a condensed version of Dinesh D’Souza’s Forbes piece, abetting discredited argument that Obama’s dad made him anticolonial?”
That’s’ a good question. The op-ed, like the article it came from, is garbage. Worse, it’s lazy garbage, espousing cheap attacks that were exposed as nonsense weeks ago. Indeed, the lede of D’Souza’s op-ed makes sweeping arguments about the president’s psyche based on the title of Obama’s first book — arguments that appear ridiculous if one actually gets past the title to read the book itself.
Asked what on earth he was thinking, Fred Hiatt, the Washington Post‘s editorial page editor, said:
I approved publication of this Op-Eed. D’Souza’s theory has sparked a great deal of commentary, from potential presidential candidates as well as from commentators on our own pages.
Let me get this straight. D’Souza’s argument has already been exposed as right-wing trash. Hell, a columnist from Forbes itself blasted D’Souza’s “intellectual goofiness,” “factual problems,” and “unsubstantiated ideological accusations.”
But the Washington Post is giving the writer yet another platform, on purpose and probably for compensation, because people are talking about just how ridiculous D’Souza’s argument really is? Offensive, discredited ideas deserve coveted media real estate, regardless of merit, based solely on their ability to generate political buzz?
Adam Serwer noted that this “basically supports the theory that attacking right-wing nonsense just makes the press embrace it even more.”
It’s also a reminder that, a little too often, it’s not altogether clear why some op-ed pages even exist. Ideally, opinion columns are intended to add context, analysis, and a larger vision to current events. But when a paper decides op-eds don’t have to be true, and publishes items that are clearly false regardless of merit, there’s a more systemic problem about journalistic standards to consider.