The Lincoln Plawg - the blog with footnotes
Sunday, October 24, 2004
Daniel Okrent: looks like the joke's on us
The chap's eminently searchable name has cropped up, it seems, in around 50 Plawg pieces over the months.
He had 18 months - to the end of May 2005 - to make his mark; one expected, and got, a slow start (backing and filling over the Landesman sex slaves article, grandfathering the Iraqi WMD fiasco). But hoped - and no more - for a Big Finish.
With six months to go, that seems ever less likely. There was the Gandhian fatuity of his call on the top papers to forego use of anonymous government sources (June 28); his self-interview (September 13).
And now the megalomania of the outed correspondent on whom Okrent placed an electronic scarlet letter on the basis of intemperate but private correspondence with - who else? - Adam Nagourney.
Except that, according to Okrent's piece today, there is no such thing as private correspondence with a Times journo:
I consider all messages sent to me, or forwarded to me by Times staff members, to be public unless the writer has stipulated otherwise.
Of course, if the sad sack writing to one of the hacks under Okrent's protection thinks he is writing privately, he will naturally not think to append such a stipulation.
Every message sent to my office gets an instant response asking if the writer wishes his or her name to be withheld.
But what about messages forwarded by hacks to Okrent in his capacity of enforcer?
That Okrent proposes a forward policy towards readers whose communications Times hacks find irksome is evident from the grotesque analogy he draws with the email of Nagourney's correspondent:
I published the name of the man who wrote to Nagourney for the same reason that newspapers publish the names of people who commit other grievous acts. The man who vandalizes a church, say, doesn't want his name in the paper either. But I don't think his wishes should protect him from public responsibility for what he has done.
But even this is beaten by his analogy in Business Week (as quoted, at least):
I decided that someone who goes out at night and paints a swastika on the door of a synagogue doesn't want it written about either.
His kicker in his own column, however, is truly bizarre: having channelled the Puritans of colonial America to condemn the guy as having committed a grievous act, he says
I was wrong to call the reader a coward; that was engaging in the same debased discourse that I condemn. I apologize.
Even supposing that he is saving a Capracorn coup against the Miller-loving  Sulzberger and henchmen for the final reel, the problem will be whether he has any credibility left to carry it off...
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