Margaret Wente On Blogging

Normally I leave comments on blogging in general to the off-season, when there isn’t much going on in hockey and I’m starving for things to write about. But Margaret Wente’s incredible article in yesterday’s Globe and Mail was simply too amazing to ignore entirely.

This is newspaper writing at its very worst: an inherently flawed premise, self-contradiction, unsupported opinion, and large helpings of generalization based on gender.

The single biggest problem with the column is the inherent contradiction involved in writing an opinion piece explaining why the writer doesn’t write opinion pieces. Yes, Margaret Wente has opinions, and no, she has no difficulty expressing them. Yes, she’ll write them down, and yes, they’ll appear on the internet. But that doesn’t make her a blogger, because while bloggers have strong opinions, no difficulty expressing them, write them down and put them on the internet, they’re… well, actually, there is no attempt to explain the difference is between what Wente is doing and blogging. The most likely explanation for the lack of explanation is that the distinction is non-existent: Wente is blogging about how awful blogging is.

Aside from the contradictory nature of the column, there are other glaring issues, the most serious of which is Wente’s generalizations based on gender. For instance, she states that “no man” can engage in mental jousting the way New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd does, and uses that example to imply that women as a whole are better at the exercise than men. Leaving aside the debatable point that Dowd is the most fearsome opinion writer in the history of the world, Wente’s writing suggests that the reason for Dowd’s proficiency boils down to something much simpler than intellect, education, or life experience: gender. As much as that’s an incredibly stupid generalization to make about the male half of the human race, it’s more insulting to Dowd, minimizing her (rather lengthy) list of accomplishments in favour of her sex.

As for men, Wente uses the three people who died in a snowmobiling accident as a representative sample (to be fair, she also mentions talk-show callers and people who comment at her site). Just for fun, let’s read a quote from the article she linked:

Adam Burke, 20, a member of the Revelstoke Snowmobile Club, said his mother and many of his friends were up there at the time, but his mother was OK. Burke said he chose not to go, because of the high-risk conditions in the mountains this weekend.

If anything proves that snowmobiling in avalanche zones is a guy thing, it’s a link to an article that quotes a young man who didn’t go because the risk was too extreme, but was happy to report that his mother (who went despite the risk) was just fine.

As with all things, it comes down to anatomy. From Wente’s opinion piece:

Women never held peeing contests. Perhaps that helps explain why women tend to be more restrained and less concerned with public displays of prowess.

I strongly recommend reading the entire article. Because if I went out to prove that unsupported opinion knows no bounds of gender or professional qualification, I couldn’t have done a better job.