Monday, May 23, 2005



How big and brave is the mighty Okrent—this big, bold man who slithers away with so many loud complaints? The big, brave fellow had eighteen months to offer examples of Krugman’s misconduct, but even now, he offers none. Instead, he waits until his final column—then hits and runs with his unexplained slams. But at least he provides us a few mordant chuckles, in the manner of flyweights worldwide. In his very next item—undiscussed Topic 3—Okrent complains that three other writers have failed to let the great New York Times serve “as a guardian of civil discussion!” Was this an attempt at comic relief? Or is it the sign of a consummate flyweight—the sign of a man who waded far over his head when offered this unwise assignment?

Let’s make sure we understand the context of Okrent’s complaints. Without question, Krugman has been one of the Times’ most-discussed writers over the past several years. If Krugman has behaved in the manner described, it should have been discussed long ago. But throughout the course of human history, that just hasn’t been the way flyweights like Okrent conduct public hangings. The exercised ed had eighteen months to offer examples of Krugman’s misconduct. Instead, he waits until his final column, then provides exactly no examples of the crimes he lustily limns. To state the obvious, this the work of a small, petty thug—the kind of man Okrent often seemed to be as he typed his frequently worthless columns. But it’s also the mark of something else—it’s the mark of a pure intellectual flyweight, something else Okrent often seemed to be during his 18-month rule.

We criticized Okrent at several points in his reign, but we would have liked to let it all go as he departed his post at the Times. For us, his major problem seemed to be one of temperament. By the time he wrote just his fourth column, Okrent seemed more intent on knocking Times readers than on critiquing the paper itself; in this continuing impulse, he displayed a temperament that’s fine for most jobs but ill-suited for a public editor. But in Sunday’s closing (cheap) shot against Krugman, he showed himself again as a cheap, petty thug—and as a flyweight for the ages. How does America’s most important newspaper have such a flyweight in such a high post?...