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It's not often that a newspaper columnist uses his platform to attack the news division at his own paper, but Richard Cohen uses his first appearance of the year to do just that. Without naming the reporter, Cohen blasts the Post for its insulting and capricious coverage of Monica Lewinsky's master's degree from the London School of Economics:
In the various books I've read about the Bill Clinton impeachment scandal -- a scandal because of what was done and a scandal because the president was impeached for it -- the same story is told over and over again. When the prosecutors or lawyers or whoever finally got to meet the storied Monica Lewinsky, they were floored by her. She was smart, personable and -- as the record makes clear -- dignified. This is more than can be said about some of the people who write about her.
I will not name names. But in recent days, Lewinsky has been back in the news. In December she graduated with a master's degree in social psychology from the London School of Economics. Her thesis was titled "In Search of the Impartial Juror: An Exploration of the Third Person Effect and Pre-Trial Publicity." Her thesis might well have been called "In Search of the Impartial Journalist," because she was immediately the subject of more poke-in-the-ribs stories about you know what. The Post, a better paper than it was that day, called her "dumb-but-smart." It was more than could be said for that piece.
It does not take a Freudian to appreciate why Lewinsky chose the topic she did. She is a victim of publicity, and her life has been a trial -- enough to floor almost anyone. But in Lewinsky's case, she took a bad situation and made something good of it. That hardly makes her "dumb-but-smart," but rather once young -- and now older and incomparably wiser. An approximation of this befalls us all, but before we got to become wise and prudent in all things we were probably irresponsible, outrageous and wild -- in other words, young.
Perhaps Cohen doesn't want to name names, but I covered this when it first appeared on Christmas Eve. Libby Copeland wrote the piece that raised Cohen's ire, and he is absolutely correct in his disgust. Here's Copeland's sneering, condescending take on Monica 2006:
Lewinsky, 33, is known more for her audacious coquetry than for her intellectual heft, and the notion of her earning a master of science degree in social psychology at the prestigious London university is jarring, akin to finding a rip in the time-space continuum, or discovering that Kim Jong Il is a natural blond. Even more staggering, the same bubbly gal who once described the act of flashing her thong at the president as a "small, subtle, flirtatious gesture" has now written a lofty-sounding thesis. Its title, according to Reuters: "In Search of the Impartial Juror: An Exploration of the Third Person Effect and Pre-Trial Publicity."
Monica! We hardly knew ye!
A revelation on this order suggests Lewinsky belongs to a fascinating subspecies, dumb-but-smart. Dumb-but-smart folks defy our low expectations. They appear dull or ditzy but possess unpredictable pockets of intelligence.
I wrote at the time that Copeland had embarrassed the Post much more than Lewinsky in her snide and snooty article. Now even the Post's own house columnist has taken Copeland to the woodshed, although Cohen for some reason feels the need to refrain from reporting the name of the reporter. Instead, he aims at the entire profession about Monica's treatment at their hands, which may have some truth to it. It seems a little like overkill to blame the entire profession and not name the specific violators, and it shows that professional courtesy can sometimes lead even the most well-intentioned into unnecessary hyperbole. (It's not the only hyperbolic part of the piece; the passage where he keens over Monica's love life is particularly hilarious.)
Kudos, though, to Cohen for calling this one straight, and to the shame-faced Post for allowing this unusual version of self-criticism to appear on its pages today.Sphere It View blog reactions
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Tracked on January 2, 2007 7:11 AM
» Daddy, Who's Monica Winsky? from As The Top of the World Turns
. . . asked my four-year old, so we explained that she had been the President's girl friend when he was married, which wasn't right. [Read More]
Tracked on January 2, 2007 8:38 AM
» Giving Credit Where Credit Is Due (BUMPED & UPDATED) from Rhymes With Right
Her name is a synonym for an act of fellatio -- but I have to recognize a serious accomplishment on the part of Monica Lewinsky. Former White House intern Monica Lewinsky, whose sexual relationship with U.S. President Bill Clinton led... [Read More]
Tracked on January 2, 2007 10:57 AM
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