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Opening Arguments

Head fake

Yikes! As an editorial writer, I'm somewhat taken aback when I see that an opinion page editor got fired for a headline he put on an editorial:

The opinion page editor at the Chattanooga Times Free Press says he has been fired for writing an editorial that was highly critical of President Barack Obama’s new “jobs plan.”

“Take your jobs plan and shove it, Mr. President: Your policies have harmed Chattanooga enough,” the headline reads.

Drew Johnson, the now apparently former opinion page editor at the Free Press, announced his firing on Twitter Thursday.

“I just became the first person in the history of newspapers to be fired for writing a paper’s most-read article,” Johnson wrote.

This is lighting up the conservative blogosphere. Says Ed Driscoll:

Romensko also links to the the Atlanta Journal Constitution tut-tutting that Johnson’s headline was “rude.”

Well, we can’t have that. In the world of the MSM, when a Democrat is in power, we must be a polite and docile palace guard. Breaking news that hurts Dear Leader — or even potential Dear Leader — must be buried, sharp edges must be sanded smooth.

I dunno. The paper says he was fired for "going outside normal proecudure" in writing a new  headline for the editorial. He says the newspaper changes headlines at the last minute all the time. The paper says the firing had nothing to do with the content of the editorial and that the paper has often been highly critical of the president's programs.

It's hard for me to shoehorn this into the "compliant press adores Obama" category. Here's the editorial itself, and it's pretty devastating -- "vitriolic" is the word that comes to mind. If the paper routinely prints editorials with that tone about the president, I don't think you can put them in the Defending Dear Leader camp. More likely, I think, is that the paper was a little embarrassed by such a rude headline on the very day the president was visiting town. And the headline was rude, but a clever play on words using the famous Johnny Paycheck song.

Rude is good sometimes, but only on occassion to get someone's attention. It only works on preaching-to-the-choir, fire-and-brimstone editorials, not let-us-reason-together ones.

Speacking of Defending Dear Leader, here is a brutal takedown of a valid example of it, a critique of a New York Times softball interview with the president:

A sort of pep talk to the liberal bourgeoisie, Democrat and Republican, is what the New York Times under Jill Abramson has become. One reads it to confirm rather than challenge one’s perceptions of the world. No mystery what those perceptions are: The Republicans are no good, the president is doing the best he can, equality marches on, America is powerless to influence other countries, illegal immigration has no downside, the government should not be trusted except when it regulates the economy, “institutional” (i.e., invisible) racism plagues contemporary society, traditional religion is a curiosity, etc. Reading the transcript of the president’s interview is valuable because it allows you to see just how self-contained the bobo world is. The paper and its intended audience, in this case the president, form a closed circuit.