James Taranto Watch

This is for hard-core media/political junkies only, and if you don’t follow the US elections and how the media cover them, this will be meaningless. If you are, like me, moderately obsessed with US policitcs and are amazed that James Taranto seems to have free reign to ridicule all Democratic candidates at a level that lies somewhere between the disgusting and the illegal immoral, this site is worth a visit.

What the blogger here is saying (though not quite in these words) is that Taranto’s jokes are not jokes at all. When Taranto always refers to Kerry as the “haughty French-looking senator who, by the way, served in Vietnam,” it becomes a meme, a little word group that gets stuck in readers’ minds. It becomes for many the Truth. Just like his always referring to Krugman as “the former Enron adviser.” It’s a clever, wicked technique.

I’ve written about Taranto before and won’t bore you with a rehash. Suffice it to say I find him the single most odious political commentator out there. The big danger is that he is very, very smart, and he knows exactly what he’s doing. And what he’s doing is downright immoral.

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Richard Burger is the author of Behind the Red Door: Sex in China, an exploration of China's sexual revolution and its clash with traditional Chinese values.

The Discussion: 6 Comments

“Illegal”?!?!?!?!?!

I’m willing to bet that, upon reflection, you disavow that word.

Taranto is frequently funny, always partisan and, yes, sometimes completely over the top, but you are too consistent a advocate to free speech, I think, to really want to use the law to regulate political discourse.

January 31, 2004 @ 1:57 pm | Comment

Okay, maybe you’ve got a point, but here is what I meant:

I said what he does lies “somewhere between the disgusting and the illegal,” i.e., he slanders people, performs conscious and persistent defamation of character and is a chronic falsifier of truth. Not being as law-savvy as yourself, I thought (hoped?) some of these things approach the illegal. Like the BBC misrepresentations of the Blair government… No, what JT does is not illegal, but he seems to push the envelope. I am all for free speech. But I do believe those writing for the mass media should have their feet held to the fire when they abuse their power. And I’ve lambasted Maureen Dowd and other liberals for the same sin.

January 31, 2004 @ 2:19 pm | Comment

‘[S]omewhere between the disgusting and the illegal’ = more than disgusting, less than illegal, surely?

January 31, 2004 @ 5:34 pm | Comment

Correct, Nicholas. But I changed it to avoid misunderstandings.

January 31, 2004 @ 5:50 pm | Comment

Well, the solution is obvious: create a Velcronym™ for Taranto himself.

How about immoral sleazeball James Taranto? Or mendacious reptile? Or malevolent meme-maker? You’re in PR; surely you can do better than I.

(I do, however, hereby claim credit for the term Velcronym™.)

January 31, 2004 @ 6:36 pm | Comment

Immoral sleazeball is easiest to remember. How can we get this started? (Velcronym is a bit too complex to popularize, I suspect.)

February 1, 2004 @ 11:22 am | Comment

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