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Balancing acts.

Are you more likely to tolerate drivel than you were four years ago? I think the answer is yes. Four years of Reagan has deadened the senses against an uninterrupted barrage of nonsense. I finished reading one of william Safire's columns last week and was contemplating a run through Anthony Lewis's when I suddenly realized that I had experienced none of the feelings of intellectual distress, outrage, misery, fear, loathing, contempt, abhorrence, indignation and overall pissed-offness that are the inevitable consequences of reading Safire's prose. I had ingested his column in a sort of synesthetic equilibrium in which my mind had automatically abdicated its normal functions.

I took another look. Sure enough, Safire's column was a piece of ripe insanity. He used the I.R.A.'s Brighton bomb to argue in favor of President Reagan's Star Wars program. The idea seemed to be that the "terrorists" of the future (by which Safire did not mean governments holding the world for ransom with their nuclear arsenals) would probably use nuclear devices to blackmail mankind but would be outwitted by the Star Wars defense. The column concluded, "A generation from now, the Reagan Presidency will be remembered for sinking the socialistic Law of the Sea and for launching the world's counterterror space defense. How many of us will be able to say we supported him in his greatest moves?"

Now that is raving, pure and simple. But if you asked Punch Sulzberger about it, he would probably say that those who dislike this kind of talk were able to turn on the same day to Anthony Lewis whacking away at George Bush. This is what Op-Ed intellectual discourse has got us into. So long as you can strike some sort of "balance," it doesn't matter that on one end of the seesaw sits a man saying things that in a rational world would have him held by doctors for observation.

On October 4 the Times Op-Ed page had a piece by Kenneth Adelman, director of the Arms Control and Disarmament Agency, headed "More Secure Than 4 Years Ago." But both The Times and The Washington Post regularly print such preposterous and self -serving handouts by government officials, as if it were their journalistic responsibility to do so. The balance traditionally required in the news columns has thus seeped into the pardied little Op-Ed acreage once intended to be a sanctuary for the heterodox and the truly critical.

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Title Annotation:New York Times' Op-Ed page and balanced journalism
Author:Cockburn, Alexander
Publication:The Nation
Date:Oct 27, 1984
Words:406
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